Senator Brown seeks to return recovered federal money to Ohio schools

Ohio Statehouse Newsroom

As the State of Ohio works toward recovering millions of dollars from the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) and its founder Bill Lager, U.S. Senator for Ohio Sherrod Brown is introducing a bill to deal with what happens to any Federal tax dollars recovered from the now-defunct school.

Brown announced the legislation at a news conference at the Ohio Statehouse Monday morning.

During his remarks, Brown drew parallels with the FBI investigation into Cliff Rosenberger, the former Ohio Speaker of the House, calling what has been allowed to happen with ECOT an example of corruption in State Government.

According to Brown, ECOT received $130 million from the Federal Government since 2000. His bill would take any of that money recovered by the U.S. Department of Education and redistribute it to Ohio’s Public Schools instead of sending it to the Federal General Fund.

The bill will be introduced later this week and Brown hopes to get it attached to an end of the year omnibus bill.

If he is unsuccessful in that he is optimistic the bill could be taken up early next year.

“I think people’s unhappiness with government, in part, is that people that defraud the system; people that defraud taxpayers, and rig the system; don’t pay a price,” said Brown. “If you defraud the government; if you steal from taxpayers; especially if you inflict pain on students like this; then you pay. You don’t just suffer criminal penalties, you pay it back.”

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has filed a civil suit against ECOT founder Bill Lager in an attempt to recover some of the State tax dollars the school did not pay back before closing its doors earlier this year in the middle of the school year.

Brown is currently unsure of the prospects of his bill.

He pointed out during his news conference that Secretary Betsy DeVos is a strong supporter of charter schools, and he claims she leans in favor of for-profit charter schools.

He is hopeful that because she is such a strong supporter of them she will take this opportunity to insist that for-profit charter schools should be held accountable if they are caught operating in the manner in which ECOT was operating, but he is uncertain if she will do so as he has not talked to her personally about his bill.

Brown says, depending on how much is recovered, the redistributed funds could pay for some teachers in districts that could use them.

He also says his bill is not limited to just Ohio and has been designed to help any state that has a similar problem with for-profit charter schools like ECOT.

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