Virtual Schools

Online Charter School Loses State Attendance Audit Appeal

Ohio’s largest online charter school must deal with another legal setback, losing an appeal of an earlier ruling that allows the state to use the amount of time students are logged in to calculate enrollment and funding.

Last week, the Franklin County Court of Appeals decided 2-1 in favor of a late-September ruling by Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Jenifer French. The ruling involved the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT), which tried to block the state from requiring the school to provide login durations as a way of measuring how many students attend the school.

French sided with the Ohio Department of Education when she rejected ECOT’s request.

ECOT, which could not be reached for comment, could not substantiate in a recent attendance audit that nearly 60 percent of full-time students were getting the minimum 920 hours of “learning opportunities” required by the state. That means the state could ask the school to repay more than $60 million of the $106 million it received in state funding last year.

Eight other smaller online schools also weren’t able to justify their reported enrollment totals, The Columbus Dispatch reported.

Education investigators have said they found numerous incidents of students allowing weeks of inactivity to pass by, followed by a brief login period, and then another extended period of inactivity, raising questions about how much schooling they are actually receiving.

ECOT has also filed an administrative appeal of the attendance audit with the Department of Education. That appeal is scheduled to be heard Dec. 5.

State lawmakers are also expected to consider the online school funding issue later this year or next year.

About the Author

Richard Chang is associate editor of THE Journal. He can be reached at [email protected].