In June of 2010, I was part of a group that met with Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Some of us challenged Secretary Duncan about the fact that to apply for grant funding from his Race to the Top competition, states had to get their legislatures to pass laws to remove any caps on the authorization of new charter schools. Duncan replied, “Good charters are part of the solution. Bad charters are part of the problem.” But Secretary Duncan did not suggest any ways that he thought the federal government ought to regulate or oversee the bad charters.
The problem of the bad charters remains. A case in point is Ohio’s Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT). ECOT’s on-line students score abysmally below students in the majority of the state’s traditional school districts and other charter schools. ECOT’s five-year graduation rate is 37.8 percent, far below other school districts. And the massive investment of tax dollars is being turned into profit for its CEO/owner/operator, William Lager.
These facts are documented by Ohio’s Plunderbund blog in a searing indictment of ECOT and William Lager, one of Ohio’s largest political contributors. According to Plunderbund, from 2010 to 2013, Lager made over $700,000 in political contributions to Ohio’s legislators.
Plunderbund explains that, “William Lager is connected to ECOT in three different ways. First, he is the school’s CEO…. Second, William lager is also the CEO of Altair Learning Management Company…. And third, William Lager is the CEO of IQ Innovations….”
Altair manages personnel and human resources, instruction, purchasing, strategic planning, public relations, financial reporting… equipment and facilities. In 2012, Altair’s management fee was $3,157,964. IQ Innovations provides curriculum services. In 2012, ECOT paid IQ Innovations $12,631,856. “In total, that means that Lager’s school, ECOT, is paying Lager’s other two companies Altair and IQ Innovations, over $15.7 million annually.”
Now, ECOT has won an Ohio competitive innovation grant beyond the state’s per-pupil allocation for each of its 13,836 on-line students. ECOT applied for one of Ohio’s new Straight A Fund innovation grants and was just awarded “their full request of an additional $2,951,755.” Plunderbund provides details from the budget of the proposed project that will be largely managed by IQ Innovation Services . “ECOT is being given an additional $2,951,755 by the state (legislature), of which $2,725.250, or a whopping 92% is going directly into Lager’s IQ Innovations company. That means that next year, William Lager, as CEO of ECOT, will be funneling over $18.5 million dollars in state funding directly to his own private companies.”