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Online Charter Schools Could Split in Two, Avoiding State Cap on New Schools

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Monday, April 29, 2013 at 1:00 PM

Dan Honda / Contra Costa Times/Landov

This fall Ohio will lift a moratorium on the creation of new online schools, allowing up to five new online schools to open.

But a provision inserted into the House version of the state budget earlier this month could expand online education in Ohio even further.

Under the provision, Ohio's existing online schools could each split into two schools and avoid the cap on the creation of new online schools.

The budget amendment only applies to existing online schools that serve at least grades one through eight. And it only allows them to split during the next two school years.

We asked the operators of Ohio's largest online schools if they had lobbied for the change.

ECOT, which operates the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, and Connections Education, which operates Ohio Connections Academy, told us they had not lobbied for the amendment. A spokesperson for K12 Inc., which operates Ohio Virtual Academy, said Friday he did not immediately have information about any involvement by K12.

Officials at OHDELA, operated by White Hat Management, did not return our calls.

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Ohio's Online Schools
About 90 percent of Ohio e-school students attend one of seven statewide online charter schools.

School Enrollment
Electronic Classroom Of Tomorrow 12,304
Ohio Virtual Academy 11,527
Ohio Connections Academy 2,975
Alternative Education Academy 2,131
Buckeye OnLine School for Success 1,471
Virtual Community School Of Ohio 1,300
Treca Digital Academy 234

Source: Ohio Department of Education

The idea of allowing online schools to separate their elementary and middle schools from their high schools has been floated before, said Bill Sims, head of the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Many Ohio online charter schools have graduation rates of less than 50 percent. Sims said that's because many high school students who enroll in online schools are months or years behind where they should be.

Sims said online schools' state ratings for their elementary and middle schools shouldn't be dragged down because of the way the state evaluates high schools.

"The goal there is not to castigate them as a poor-performing school, it's to try to get those kids graduated and career-ready," he said.

For more about online education in Ohio, click here.

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