ECOT — the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow — blew up just in time to provide Democrats in Ohio with a nice piece of political ammunition for the 2018 elections for governor, auditor, and attorney general, to name just three who share some of the blame for this debacle.
As a result of ECOT’s apparent greed and the unwillingness of state officials to exercise commonsense oversight, it is now the electronic classroom of yesterday.
Judges and auditors have moved in to pay off and lay off the employees, corral the remaining money, and sell off whatever assets remain, dumping 12,000 children back into their local school systems — including 288 in Toledo Public Schools alone.
After a multi-year fight that went to the Ohio Supreme Court, ECOT was forced to begin returning $80 million in back payments, at the rate of $2.5 million a month. The company couldn’t sustain the economic impact and was forced into receivership.
The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow was created 18 years ago in Lucas County, with hoopla, and heralded as an advance in education.
The idea was that young people who, for whatever reason, didn’t feel comfortable in a traditional school building, or maybe felt frustrated by the pace, would be better served by working at home on a computer and communicating with teachers by email rather than by raising their hands in a room with 20 or 30 other kids.
The reality in too many cases is that ECOT was used by students and lax parents as a way to stay on the rolls without actually having to do any work. ECOT tolerated their truancy and kept the money. The Ohio Department of Education failed to audit ECOT’s records to force the company to be honest until 2016.
Many of Ohio’s charter schools are performing satisfactorily — and at less than the cost of traditional public education. That the Republicans have allowed this experiment in local education to be tarnished by the combination of greed, political influence-buying, and outright stupidity that characterizes ECOT has presented the Ohio Democratic Party with a political weapon that rivals the 2006 Tom Noe scandal. Democrats swept most of the statewide offices that year.
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