ECOT loses state attendance audit appeal

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – An appeal by Ohio’s largest online charter school of a ruling that allows the state to use the amount of time students are logged in to calculate enrollment and funding has been dismissed.

The Franklin County Court of Appeals 2-1 decision concerning the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, or ECOT, lets stand for now a ruling by Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Jenifer French.

French sided with the Ohio Department of Education in September when she rejected a request by ECOT to block the state from requiring the school provide log-in durations as a way of measuring how many students attend the school.

The appellate court found French’s decision wasn’t a final ruling, and thus couldn’t be appealed, The Columbus Dispatch reported.

A message was left Wednesday evening for ECOT.

ECOT 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.

Education officials have said they found numerous incidents of students having weeks of inactivity, followed by a brief login period, and another extended period of inactivity, raising questions about how much schooling they are receiving.

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

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

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