State auditor candidate Space campaigns in Findlay

Democratic state auditor candidate Zack Space on Tuesday portrayed his Republican opponent, Keith Faber, as too cozy with money interests to become the state’s chief financial watchdog.
Faber has received a lot of campaign contributions from the now-bankrupt, scandal-ridden online charter school ECOT (Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow), Space said during a campaign stop in Findlay.
Years ago, a bill came before the state Senate to correct attendance reporting problems with charter schools. Faber, Senate president at the time, should have assigned the bill to the Senate’s Education Committee, Space said.
It would have been the “natural committee” for the bill, Space said.
But the Education Committee chair was Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering, who “had been critical of ECOT and almost certainly would have given this bill a hearing and passed it on to the floor,” Space said.
“Instead, it went to the Finance Committee, where it never even got a hearing,” Space said.
ECOT has gained distinction for low attendance and graduation rates.
The state has determined that in the past two years, over $80 million in public money was wrongfully paid to ECOT, Space said.
“These are monies that would have went into public education, that could have been stopped, had that bill received a hearing and been enacted,” Space said.
“You’ll have to ask Mr. Faber whether or not his decision to direct that bill to the (Finance) Committee had anything to do with financial support his campaign was receiving” from ECOT, Space said.
Separately, Space said that as state auditor he would conduct audits to identify which approaches work better in fighting the opioid epidemic.
Medicaid is the state’s biggest source of funds to fight opioid addiction, Space said.
“Yet there doesn’t seem to be any comprehensive plan whatsoever on behalf of the state of Ohio in terms of how they spend that money,” he said.
Each county is left to fend for itself in how to fight the addiction, Space said.
“There’s a role for the auditor, to at least examine what’s working, and what’s not working when it comes to the use of taxpayer dollars through Medicaid in combating the opioid epidemic,” he said.

Courier reporter Lou Wilin will have more on Wednesday.

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