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ECOT Says Battle with Education Department is Far From Over

photo of Bill Lager

The state school board votes on Monday on whether to require the state’s largest online charter school, the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, to pay back $60 million in state funding it got for actually having 60% fewer students than it claimed it did.

It’s the latest in the fight between ECOT and the state, and the charter school says it won’t be the last.

A Department of Education hearing officer agreed with a Franklin County judge that ECOT owes that money for 9,000 students it was paid for who weren’t enrolled full time. The state contends ECOT must show it’s providing 920 hours of learning opportunities each year for each student.

But ECOT has claimed that it’s following the law and a contract it signed in 2003 which didn’t require it track the hours students spent online. ECOT spokesman Neil Clark says no matter the vote, this battle with ODE isn’t over.

“We will resist any actions that they take and we’ll continue to appeal to the General Assembly or others to correct what’s been going wrong in this process.”

And when asked if it will go to the Ohio Supreme Court, Clark says, “Absolutely.”

But state school superintendent Paolo DeMaria has said he thinks the law is clear.

Karen is a lifelong Ohioan who has served as news director at WCBE-FM, assignment editor/overnight anchor at WBNS-TV, and afternoon drive anchor/assignment editor in WTAM-AM in Cleveland. In addition to her daily reporting for Ohio’s public radio stations, she’s reported for NPR, the BBC, ABC Radio News and other news outlets. She hosts and produces the Statehouse News Bureau’s weekly TV show “The State of Ohio”, which airs on PBS stations statewide. She’s also a frequent guest on WOSU TV’s “Columbus on the Record”, a regular panelist on “The Sound of Ideas” on ideastream in Cleveland, appeared on the inaugural edition of “Face the State” on WBNS-TV and occasionally reports for “PBS Newshour”. She’s often called to moderate debates, including the Columbus Metropolitan Club’s Issue 3/legal marijuana debate and its pre-primary mayoral debate, and the City Club of Cleveland’s US Senate debate in 2012.