This week in Ohio, The Columbus Dispatch reports that “Reps. Bill Hayes and Teresa Fedor, the House Education Committee's top Republican and Democrat, [...] forwarded an anonymous whistle-blower's email” to David Yost, the state Auditor. The whistle-blower alleges that Ohio Virtual Academy, a K12 Inc. school, failed to remove more than 400 chronically truant students from its rolls. With charter schools funded on a per-pupil basis, padding enrollment with fake or absent students would mean collecting extra state funds while spending less money in the classroom.
Fortunately, Ohio’s Auditor is already quite familiar with the issue. In January, Yost released a special audit on the findings of an investigation into discrepancies between charter school enrollment and student attendance. As he told Central Ohio NPR, what Yost discovered “shocked” him: on average, the 30 charter schools investigated were reporting two times as many students as were actually in their classrooms. In fact, at one charter school that reported an enrollment of 95 students, the auditors found none in attendance. Four of the schools were managed by the notorious White Hat Management, and it’s hardly surprising that the audit flagged all for further investigation due to the “unusually high” variance between reported and actual attendance discovered.
Kristin Stewart, the head of Ohio Virtual Academy, disputes the allegations made by the whistle-blower. However, The Toldeo Blade reports that it acquired an audio recording of a conference call held by school officials in April, in which staff members are told that truant students will no longer be removed from enrollment.
While Ohio Virtual Academy and its sponsor try to mop up the mess, Rep. Fedor is looking for answers: “My question is how long has it been going on. For years? I don’t know. This is a serious gap and it’s a serious issue if these e-schools are getting money that they shouldn’t get.”
Image by Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig