ECOT: Prosecute if crimes were committed

Much remains to be learned about the fiasco that was the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow in Ohio. Among issues that need to be investigated thoroughly is whether ECOT officials relied on taxpayers for hush money meant to quash reports of scandal.

ECOT, founded in 2000 as an online charter school, raked in more than $1 billion in state payments before it shut down in January. That came after state officials demanded the company repay about $80 million.

State officials say that money was paid based on enrollment ECOT claimed but did not have. Indeed, the school got away with claiming enrollment it could not substantiate for years.

One reason for that may have been use of some of the state funds to keep ECOT employees from blowing the whistle. They were required to sign non-disclosure agreements that went as far as demanding they not make comments “disparaging or negative toward” ECOT.

Two watchdog organizations, Common Cause and Innovation Ohio, are looking into that matter. If state government investigators are not probing it, too, they should become involved.

ECOT is now being liquidated in an online auction that runs through the end of the month. Ohio Auditor Dave Yost says that during his audit of the organization, ECOT sent his office more than 200 million records … but stripped all data about where the students went, what they were working on and more. Yost said “they stripped out all of the meeting (minutes) and spreadsheets they sent over to justify their claim.”

If criminal behavior and use of taxpayers’ money to keep secrets was part of the ECOT formula, prosecutors should file charges against those responsible.