Sen. Sherrod Brown wants U.S. Department of Education Inspector General Kathleen Tighe to probe the ECOT scandal as well as Ohio’s entire for-profit charter school industry.
The Democratic senator’s letter stems from state Auditor Dave Yost’s audit released last week that referred possible fraud by the now-closed online school to both state and federal authorities, including Tighe. The audit found that ECOT got more than $130 million in federal funds since 2000.
“Ohioans deserve answers,” wrote Brown. “We trust schools to educate and prepare students, but ECOT, (founder) William Lager, and his companies have abused that trust to rig the system to enrich themselves.”
Brown noted that ECOT was managed by Altair Learning Management and had a major contract with IQ Innovations, both for-profit entities owned by Lager.
“Over the life of the school, ECOT made $200 million in payments to Lager’s companies,” Brown wrote. “In the 2015-2016 school year alone, ECOT paid $4.3 million to Altair Learning Management and $17.5 million to IQ Innovations.
“The more one learns about ECOT’s finances and practices, the more it seems that the school was an enterprise that involved self-dealing and manipulation that lined the pockets of Mr. Lager and his companies. These companies flourished while students received a subpar education and taxpayers were deceived, intentionally and repeatedly. ... We trust schools to educate and prepare students, but ECOT, William Lager, and his companies have abused that trust to rig the system to enrich themselves.”
Brown wrote to both state and federal education departments in February, asking how they would recover misspent taxpayer dollars from ECOT and Lager’s companies.
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