June 29 Columbus Dispatch: Closed Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow Owes State $117 Million
A recent state audit verifies that ECOT owes the state (actually school districts) $117 million for theft during 2016 and 2017. Additional questions loom. Why was the state not monitoring ECOT attendance data from 2001 through 2015? Was ECOT stealing funds during that 14 year period? By interpolation, one could conclude ECOT stole an additional half billion dollars. Why did the auditor not audit the student enrollment data for the years between 2001 and 2015? Was the department asleep at the switch prior to 2016? It is reasonable to conclude that Lager has stolen three quarters of one billion dollars.
No doubt many state officials turned a blind eye to Lager’s criminal actions because he was lining the pockets of politicians with cash for political campaigns.
ECOT is not the only charter operation that is ripping off taxpayers in Ohio and throughout the nation. Corruption in the charter industry is widespread.
Closed Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow owes state $117M
Laura A. Bischoff
Columbus Dispatch USA TODAY NETWORK
The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow – an online charter school that abruptly closed in January 2018 – owes the state more than $117 million, a newly released state audit found.
Ohio Auditor Keith Faber on Tuesday said the school owes $106.6 million to the state Department of Education and another $10.6 million to the Attorney General’s office. Faber’s auditors found that ECOT wasn’t entitled to some of the state money it received in 2016 and 2017 and none of the cash it received in 2018.
William Lager founded ECOT in 2000 and built it into the largest online charter school in Ohio. Lager also operated Altair Learning Management Inc and IQ Innovations LLC, which contracted with ECOT to provide support services.
In 2016, the Ohio Department of Education determined that ECOT had been overstating the number of students it served and the state demanded repayment of $80 million. That triggered a financial death spiral for the school, which abruptly shut its virtual doors in January 2018.
In May 2018, then-state Auditor Dave Yost issued a blistering report on the operation and referred the audit to county and federal prosecutors for possible investigation.
In February 2019, the FBI and U.S. Department of Justice subpoenaed nearly 20 years of campaign contribution records for the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow — an indication that the now-closed online charter school and its key players have come under federal criminal investigation.
A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Ken Parker did not immediately respond to a request for comment on any ECOT investigation.
Legal proceedings against ECOT, Lager and others are ongoing. In May, a Franklin County Common Pleas Court said Lager’s companies own $161.6 million.
Laura Bischoff is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves the Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Akron Beacon Journal and 18 other affiliated news organizations across Ohio.
Learn more about the EdChoice voucher litigation
VOUCHERS HURT OHIO