Investigates

Critics react to ECOT's use of tax dollars to pay students

NBC4 recently revealed some shocking information about the way ECOT, Ohio's now-defunct online charter school, was spending your tax dollars.

The state auditor's office confirmed ECOT students were paid to attend their own graduation and take state tests. It said because the policy was approved by ECOT's board and sponsor, the payments were legal. The auditor's office said it has no legal authority over policies like this.

ECOT students from across the state claimed they were paid $25 to $50 to attend their own commencement and take state tests. Even lawmakers who are charged with funding state education did not know ECOT was spending money this way.

Gloria Livingstone, whose son graduated from ECOT in 2013, said in hindsight she thinks lawmakers looked the other way.

"Really made me mad if in any way my son was used as a pawn in this political fiasco that this was," she said. "I can't remember ever, anybody ever being paid to go to their graduation, that just blew me away." 

ECOT's policies said the payments were supposed to be used for travel expenses and lost wages, among other things. While surprising to many, the payments were legal.

The state auditor’s office said because the policies were approved by ECOT's board and sponsor, the payments were allowable.

Innovation Ohio, an Ohio non-profit that has been a whistleblower of ECOT practices for years, said it doesn't make it right.

"There’s a reason they’re getting paid. First of all, it’s outrageous they had the money to do that and second of all, you know there’s an obvious reason they’re getting paid and it’s to make sure that place was filled," said Stephen Dyer with Innovation Ohio.

Livingstone said taxpayers weren't the only ones robbed. She said so were students. 

"I just think the state, the kids of Ohio deserve better than this," said Livingstone.


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