COLUMBUS, OH – Today, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) hosted a news conference at the Ohio Statehouse as he introduces legislation to ensure any federal funds recovered from the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) are returned to the school districts that lost them to ECOT in the first place. ECOT closed in January following examinations of mismanagement, which included inflated enrollment numbers.
Since 2000, ECOT has received more than $130 million in federal funding. Brown’s bill, the Putting Students First Act, would require any federal funds the U.S. government might recover from ECOT or other bad actors who misuse education funds be returned to Ohio’s students instead of the U.S. Treasury’s general fund.
“ECOT stole taxpayer dollars and cheated Ohio students,” said Brown. “That’s why I’m introducing legislation to return that money where it belongs – to Ohio students.”
In January, ECOT closed as it was being investigated by the Ohio Department of Education and the Ohio state school board for misclassifying student participation. Following its closure, the school’s approximately 12,000 students had to find new schools, causing school districts around the state to scramble to provide education to the influx of students.
Brown has long led efforts to increase transparency and oversight of Ohio’s charter schools and has worked to hold ECOT accountable and to help Ohio school districts who have been hurt by ECOT’s actions.
In February, following the closure of ECOT, Brown wrote to the Ohio Department of Education and the State Board of Education asking for specific steps Ohio will take to ensure ECOT students can transition to new schools. Brown also pressed state officials to share how the planned to recoup taxpayer dollars from ECOT and its operator, Altair Management.
In May, Brown wrote to U.S. Department of Education (DOE) Inspector General Kathleen Tighe calling for a prompt investigation into the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) and the for-profit charter school industry. Brown’s letter follows Ohio State Auditor Dave Yost’s release of an audit finding that ECOT withheld critical student data to secure more state and federal funding, which Yost referred to Tighe and DOE.