The Columbus Dispatch, April 30
The ghost of the defunct Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow online charter school is haunting Ohio’s 2018 political races, and that’s no surprise. The school’s 18-year history in Ohio, featuring dismal academic performance and gross overpayments by taxpayers, represents a colossal failure of Ohio’s charter-school system that stretches over Republican and Democratic administrations.
It provides fodder for Democratic candidates to put Republicans, who have controlled state government for eight years, on the spot.
Regardless of whose claims prove to be most valid, Ohio’s next class of leaders should focus on a key problem with e-schools: We don’t have a reliable way to ensure that e-school students are “attending” throughout the school year. And thus we don’t have a valid basis on which to pay the schools.
The old method — simply paying full freight for every child who enrolls regardless of his or her participation — is absurd and should have been seen as such from the start. Now ECOT is using employee-tracking software called ActivTrak to document students’ activity, but state regulations don’t make clear what should and shouldn’t count toward the required 920 hours of instruction time per year per student.
What if someone is logged on for six hours straight but registers no keystrokes for the last three hours? Questions like that likely will be hashed out as state claims against ECOT are litigated. Going forward, they need to be addressed up front by state lawmakers.
As state Auditor Dave Yost runs for attorney general, his role in the ECOT story is in the spotlight courtesy of Democratic opponent Steve Dettelbach. It’s a noteworthy role; Yost’s office drove investigations that found ECOT had overcharged taxpayers millions of dollars by accepting payment for students without being able to document that they were receiving an education.
But Yost also has accepted campaign contributions in the past from ECOT founder William Lager and once spoke at an ECOT graduation.
Audits by Yost’s office have found that ECOT owes the state at least $80 million in overpayments. The Department of Education last year began docking ECOT’s state funding to make up the overpayments, causing the school to close in January for lack of funds. …
If criminal charges are warranted, they should be pursued vigorously.
But when the smoke clears, the priority should be writing better e-school regulations so this debacle won’t be repeated.
The Blade, April 29
Former Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger resigned from office amid talk of an FBI investigation into his allegedly unethical behavior.
Ohioans are owed some more information about how influence is being apportioned in the Ohio House of Representatives — before members get together and elect a new speaker.
The former speaker, Cliff Rosenberger, abruptly quit on April 12 — after it was reported he had retained a lawyer to respond to questions from the FBI. The Clarksville Republican says he’s done nothing wrong.
Some payday lending lobbyists may have attempted to curry favor with the speaker by helping to pay for a trip to London. The FBI is investigating that. It just so happened that payday lenders went on a lavish trip with the speaker and that coincidentally the legislation to reform payday lending got bottled up in committee. The legislation, co-sponsored by Toledo state Rep. Michael Ashford, is aimed at reining in the predatory interest rates that so-called payday lenders charge.
Ohio citizens want the Ohio General Assembly to act in the citizens’ best interests at all times. That includes when it comes to regulating the payday lending industry.
All we know is that Mr. Rosenberger was rapidly hustled out of town, and Republican House members act like it’s just another day at work and time to elect a new House Speaker. Meanwhile, the story about the payday lenders and Mr. Rosenberger’s excellent adventure in London has gone quiet. Mr. Rosenberger is the first speaker to resign under an ethical cloud. …
The Franklin County prosecutor’s office and the office of the inspector general should not wait for the FBI to decide what to do but should open an investigation and follow where it leads.