Friday, May 11, 2018
Ohio’s then-largest online charter school may have broken the law by withholding information used in calculating payments and inflated the amount of time students spent learning, the state auditor said Thursday.
The now-shuttered Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow also didn’t deduct time the students were inactive online and didn’t properly document whether students were learning during times the company claimed for payment, according to the report from Republican Auditor David Yost.
“ECOT officials had the ability to provide honest, accurate information to the state and they chose not to,” Yost said.
Yost said that withholding information and misleading state education regulators could represent criminal fraud.
He has referred the audit’s findings to the FBI, the U.S. Attorney, the Franklin County prosecutor and the U.S. Department of Education’s inspector general.
Republicans’ handling of the now-shuttered charter school, which has given generously to GOP candidates, is a key campaign issue for Ohio Democrats this fall. Yost won the Republican primary Tuesday in the race for attorney general.
An attorney representing ECOT didn’t immediately return a phone message seeking comment. The school, which closed in January, has previously alleged the state engaged in a conspiracy to show the school had been overpaid.
The Ohio Department of Education has sought about $80 million in repayments from ECOT through its last two attendance reviews. Yost said he now suspects ECOT owes Ohio taxpayers much more.
Yost’s audit, covering the school’s finances for 2016-2017, also said three private companies affiliated with ECOT should return $250,000 spent on an ad campaign attacking state lawmakers and the state Education Department for seeking the repayments.