ECOT and the Columbus City teacher layoffs

Below is my letter to the editor, published recently in the Columbus Dispatch.

Let me connect the dots for Dispatch readers. Columbus City Schools are laying off teachers. The layoffs are from a budget shortfall. The shortfall is because the state cut funding. The state cut funding because the money had already been spent. The money had already been spent because more than $1 billion in taxpayer funds have gone to the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, a charter school operating fraudulently by inflating its attendance figures.

ECOT was not shut down earlier because the state officials who were supposed to have oversight looked the other way. Not coincidentally, ECOT made big donations to those same state officials who were supposed to be safeguarding students’ interests. So indirectly, the money that was supposed to pay Columbus teachers has somehow found its way into the campaign coffers of state-level officials.

In other words, this is not a story of financial mismanagement by a local school district; it’s a story of state-level misconduct at the expense of local schools and their students. Follow the money, connect the dots.

Christopher Sunami
Columbus Alternative High School ’93

Although the debate over charter school use (and often abuse) of public funds is far from new, I was inspired to write this letter after being infuriated by news stories that implied the new round of teacher layoffs in Columbus City Schools is due to district financial mismanagement, “even after a levy was passed.” While I’m sure CCS has made its fair share of poor decisions, it’s hard –or apparently far too easy –to not connect the district’s shortfall with the millions of taxpayer dollars diverted from public schools to a school that operated fraudulently for 16 years, and the paid-off Republican state legislators and State Auditor who looked the other direction.

This is not to say there aren’t good charter schools doing a great job out there, but it is becoming increasingly clear that the good schools are being used as a fig-leaf covering over a naked cash grab –which was just what we were all warned would happen twenty years ago when the charter legislation was first passed.

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