Tuesday, Aug 21, 2018
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Lawmakers look to help ECOT students' new schools

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    The Ohio Statehouse.

    The Columbus Dispatch

  • Ohio-Virtual-Academy-logo-1

    Ohio Virtual Academy logo

COLUMBUS — Maumee-based Ohio Virtual Academy’s attempt to treat student transfers from what used to be the state’s largest online charter school differently from the rest of its enrollment failed Wednesday in the state Senate.

The chamber, however, has not given up on the idea of providing some assistance to that school and others that absorbed students from the closed Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow.

The Senate approved a bill to shift responsibility for tracking the residency of online charter school students from the home school district to the charter school, but did it without an amendment sought by Ohio Virtual Academy and its sponsor, the Ohio Council of Community Schools.

Ohio Virtual Academy accepted 4,200 former ECOT students when its larger brethren shut down in January at the halfway point of the school year. The amendment would have ignored the academic performance of the juniors and seniors among them when it comes to evaluating the sponsor’s performance this school year and in the next.

The amendment would also have prohibited the state Department of Education from closing a charter school unless it was considered failing for three consecutive years if that school’s enrollment had expanded by more than 20 percent because of ECOT transfers.

Current law allows a charter school deemed failing for two out of three years to be closed.

Sen. Peggy Lehner (R., Kettering), chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said she’s confident the issue will be dealt with in the few session days left before the Senate recesses for the summer.

“We’re just looking at all potential impacts of the ECOT closure and trying to do that in one fell swoop rather than trying to piecemeal it…,” she said. “It isn’t intended to help any particular school. It’s intended to help the students that are left from ECOT, so depending on where those students end up hopefully, we’re going to make sure that they’re well taken care of.”

The Ohio Virtual Academy amendment had been proposed by a lobbyist for K12, Inc., the academy’s for-profit manager.

ECOT closed its doors in January, sending about 12,000 students scrambling to find other options. The closing occurred after its Toledo sponsor, the Educational Service Center of Lake Erie West, pulled its sponsorship.

The school faced insolvency after the state began deducting money from its monthly subsidies to recover nearly $80 million previously given to the school based on enrollment figures the department later determined ECOT couldn’t back up.

State Auditor Dave Yost recently asked federal and county investigators to consider bringing criminal fraud charges against ECOT players.

Contact Jim Provance at jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.

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