Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, introduced the “Putting Students First Act” on Aug. 27 that requires money the government recovers from the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) to be given to public schools.
“It was the public schools that they sucked the money out of,” Brown said. “This ECOT scandal … is the biggest scandal of my lifetime in state government, and it stole hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars and betrayed tens of thousands of students.”
Originally, the money would have been placed in the U.S. Treasury General Fund.
ECOT was a fully accredited electronic charter school based in Columbus that closed in January because of allegations about mismanagement and money that it owed to the state government. ECOT was tuition-free, but the money was taken out of funding for public schools.
According to the Columbus Dispatch, ECOT owed $62 million to the state because of inflating attendance and has received $130 million in federal funding since 2000.
“If he wants to introduce something in Congress, then God bless him. He has authority over federal funds,” Rep. Keith Faber, R-Celina, said. “I fully support that.”
Faber, who is running for auditor of state, said he co-sponsored a bill that effectively does the same thing as Brown’s bill but at the state level. The bill he referenced was House Bill 87, which he says requires that money recovered from failing charter schools go back to the public schools.
“I like the idea of the bill. I’m just not too optimistic about it passing,” Bailey Williams, the president of the Ohio University College Democrats, said.
Williams said he thinks the public schools deserve the money because of previous funding cuts from locals schools. However, he said they need more money than what ECOT took from them.
“There have been wild successes in school choice, … and there have been failures,” Faber said. “ECOT is one of those failures.”
Williams said ECOT is a problem for Ohio Republicans in the upcoming election, and it is a sensitive subject for them since he believes that the Republican-led government of Ohio allowed it to happen.
“They were shut down by a Republican-led Department of Education, governor, auditor and attorney general,” Faber said. “Republicans will do the job right.”