ECOT lied again, according to Ohio Auditor of State Dave Yost. He claims the online charter school artificially inflated its enrollment numbers for the 2016-17 school year.
According to Yost, unlike previous audits, ECOT officials refused to sign a standard document that stated they did not knowingly engage in fraudulent activities.
Thursday’s report comes after what Yost called a unique and critical year in which the school could not claim they were surprised that their funding would be based on student participation and not just being signed up with the school.
“For the first time, we have documentation that during the 2016-17 school year, ECOT knew precisely how much time students were spending on school work,” Yost said.
That’s thanks in large part to software called ActivTrak, and Yost says the school chose to report data the software does not corroborate.
“Activtrak is the smoking gun,” said Yost. “For the first time, we can prove that ECOT submitted information to ODE in order to get paid that it knew to be false when it was submitted. Submitting false information in order to get money to which one is not entitled is fraud, and it may also be a criminal act.”
Yost has referred the matter to the U.S. Attorney, the FBI, the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Education, and Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien.
Yost says, ultimately it may not be possible to calculate exactly how much money ECOT has bilked from the state over the years, and while the state attempts to recoup some of the millions of dollars it is owed for overpayments to the school, it is the students who never graduated that lost the most.
“ECOT owed them an education and now it can never give it to them, you can’t make that up,” Yost said.
Yost claims the Ohio Department of Education and state lawmakers are to blame. He says ODE should not have accepted ECOT’s reported numbers for 2016-2017 because they lacked detail, something that is required by ODE guidelines. He also says, state lawmakers should not have allowed the loopholes ECOT exploited to deceive the state to exist.
According to Yost, no new regulations would have been passed into law and ECOT would still be in operation today if it wasn’t for his office and the work they have done uncovering the bad acts of the school.
Yost described his efforts to get lawmakers to shore up charter school rules as having to drag them kicking and screaming.
After the press conference, Yost’s campaign for Attorney General released a statement that he would be giving all money ever donated to him by Bill Lager, the founder of ECOT, to charity.
Keith Faber, who served as Senate President during the years ECOT ran unchecked, and who is running for State Auditor also is giving all money donated to him by Bill Lager to charity.