Using private companies owned by Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow school founder Bill Lager, plus a media-production company run by his daughter, the now-defunct online charter school tried to hide the source of payment for nearly $250,000 worth of TV attack ads aimed at the Ohio education department, according to state auditor Dave Yost.
As a result, Yost is ordering a pair of Lager’s ECOT-affiliated for-profit companies, along with the company owned by his daughter, to repay nearly $250,000 for what Yost says is illegally spent public money.
ECOT and the education department engaged in warfare in the courts and a public-relations campaign last year after the department found that the school was unable to verify about 60 percent of its reported enrollment. The state ordered ECOT to repay the state $60 million, a sum that has since risen.
As part of its strategy, ECOT launched a string of television ads attacking the education department. Although charter schools can legally run ads in an effort to recruit students, no public school is allowed to spend taxpayer money on political-type ads.
A version of this article appeared in the May 16, 2018 edition of Education Week as Online Charter Used For-Profit Companies to Hide Attack-Ad Money, Auditor Finds