AFT National President, Striking Teachers Highlight Lake Erie West’s Charter Failures

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Sponsor for Summit Academy schools has a record of scandal and ineffectiveness.
 
Toledo, OH — As charter school teachers at Summit Academy Parma continue their strike, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and striking teachers spoke in Toledo outside the office of the Educational Service Center of Lake Erie West. Lake Erie West is the sponsor for Summit Academy schools and has a record of ineffectiveness and failed oversight as a charter school sponsor, including the scandal-ridden Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT).
 
Weingarten, Ohio Federation of Teachers President Melissa Cropper, and Toledo Federation of Teachers President Kevin Dalton and the Summit Academy Parma teachers called on Lake Erie West to hold Summit Academy accountable on health and safety, proper staffing, and bargaining in good faith with their teachers.  
 
"The Summit teachers are fighting for what the Summit kids need--and what management promised their parents--a safe and welcoming place for their children to grow and thrive,” said Weingarten, who will be visiting the striking teachers on the picket line later today. “They want to work with, not against, the administration to win manageable class sizes, for a living wage so they don’t have to work two or three jobs, for an accessible learning environment, and for basic transparency and accountability. Summit management says it believes in ‘excellence in all things education’. And its sponsor Lake Erie West claims to be an expert in accountability. We simply want them to live up to that promise."
 
Lake Erie West was rated ineffective 2 years in a row (2014-2015 and 2015-2016) and in the most recent complete school year, over 45% of their sponsored schools received an F. More troubling, their sponsored schools have been the subject of major controversies, indicating that Lake Erie West is an absentee sponsor that fails to hold their schools accountable.
 
In the most egregious case of failed oversight, Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) was required to pay back $80 million in state funding originally distributed based on inflated enrollment data, which led to their insolvency and closure in January 2018. 
They also had previous oversight failures with Summit Academy Schools. In 2015, the Office of the Ohio Attorney General conducted Medicaid compliance audits at three schools operated by Summit Academy Management and sponsored by Lake Erie West. The audit found that the schools billed for services for students who were absent or not even enrolled on the dates of service.
 
"First with ECOT, and now with Summit Academy, Lake Erie West has proven to be an irresponsible sponsor for charter schools in Ohio," said Melissa Cropper, President of the Ohio Federation of Teachers. "Every child, whether in a public or charter school, needs and deserves a safe, clean, and adequately staffed classroom. For 53 charter schools in Ohio, it's Lake Erie West's job to ensure that. They need to do their job."
 
Teachers and intervention specialists at Summit Academy Parma began their strike on Tuesday, February 19, after nine months of negotiations failed to reach a contract agreement that improved learning conditions for the students. The key priorities are health and safety, manageable class sizes and caseloads, improved staffing, and planning time during the day for teachers. The strike is a direct response to Unfair Labor Practice charges that the union has filed over management’s failure to bargain in good faith.
 
"We formed our union last year to force Summit Academy to provide some basic things to our school, like a clean and safe building and the staffing that they're required to have. They've been fighting us every step of the way, even engaging in Unfair Labor Practices during our negotiations," Summit Academy Parma Intervention Specialist Mike Meyers. "It's time for Lake Erie West to do their job and make Summit Academy improve our students' learning conditions."
 
"Lake Erie West sponsors 53 schools in Ohio. Those students are spread out around the state, but Lake Erie West is in my union's backyard. So we're going to do everything we can to make sure they provide the meaningful oversight that they're required to under law," said Kevin Dalton, President of the Toledo Federation of Teachers.
 
 
 
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The Ohio Federation of Teachers (OFT) is comprised of more than 50 local unions representing 20,000 members who are active and retired public school teachers, charter school teachers, school support staff, higher education faculty and staff, and public employees. OFT works to advance quality education and services that impact children, and a voice in the workplace for Ohio’s education professionals. OFT is affiliated with the 1.7 member American Federation of Teachers.