E-School Catastrophe in Ohio

The budget bill (HB153) currently being debated in the Ohio General Assembly contains provisions that would lock in the near monopoly a few E-School operators enjoy in Ohio, and remove some of the last vestigates of accountability. What is happening ot students in Ohio's E-schools is shocking.

Education Sector, who identify themselves as an independent think tank that challenges conventional thinking in education policy, recently ran a multipart series on E-Schools in Ohio

The entire series is worth a read, but I want to draw your attention to one of their conclusions

5. Ensure Transparency

I'll send a $25 Starbuck's gift card to the first commenter who can tell me how, from looking at the school's web site, they figured out who actually runs OHDELA, the Ohio Distance and Electronic Learning Academy.

Throughout our exploration of Ohio E-schools, we found numerous examples where it was almost impossible to figure out who actually governed and managed a school. When trying to determine whether another school was managed by a for-profit company, the school told us they were a state-run school, the Department of Education didn't know and referred us to the school's authorizer, who then referred us to an outside consultant who could finally give an answer. Many districts also appear to take a hands-off approach and can provide little information about the e-schools they sponsor. These relationships are new and lack clarity on both accountability, and utimately, who actually runs the school under the guise of these districts. For example, prior to enrollment, many parents would have no idea who was providing the curriculum for their district's e-school prior unless they knew to visit TRECA's web site.

These aren't isolated findings. Think Tank Innovation Ohio found similar problems, and worse.

  • Of Ohio’s 7 state-wide E-schools (which account for 90% of all E-school enrollment), six are not even rated "effective" by the Ohio Department of Education.
  • 5 of the 7 have graduation rates worse than Cleveland Municipal Schools, which has the lowest graduation rate of all traditional school districts.
  • Far from “saving’ money, E-Schools actually cost the state twice as much per pupil as traditional public schools.
  • Currently, E-schools are required to spend a minimum amount on per pupil instruction, or face a fine. In their respective budget proposals, both Gov. Kasich and House Republicans removed that provision. This would short-change students, and allow E-school operators to pocket even more taxpayer money.
  • Ohio pays David Brennan nearly $12 million per year for operating the OHDELA E-school, which graduates just 36% of its students. Another operator, William Lager, rakes in $64 million per year for operating ECOT, the state’s largest E-school, which has a graduation rate of 35%.
  • Together, Misters Brennan and Lager have made nearly $4 million in political donations since 2001, mostly to Republican candidates and party accounts.
  • Though Gov. Kasich and General Assembly leaders say they believe in “accountability,” the legislature has still not adopted the E-school standards developed by the state Board of Education in 2003, while ever more taxpayer money is pumped into the failed schools operated by their financial contributors.

Their whole report can be read here, or below.

Ohio Eschools Funding Failure

There is something very seriously wrong with E-Schools in Ohio. These problems require immediate attention, both from the Auditor of State to ascertain where and how tax dollars are truly being spent, but also the Department of Education to determine why they have such abysmal academic performance.