Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

ECOT Continues To Battle State Officials Over Attendance Records

Ohio’s largest online charter school is firing back against state officials who say they don’t have enough information to perform an attendance audit. The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, or ECOT, says it won’t hand over student log-in times unless a judge tells them to.  Ohio Public Radio's Andy Chow reports. 


The Ohio Department of Education says it still needs detailed information on when ECOT’s students logged-in and -out of school every day in order to get a clear idea of how much instruction time they received.


A judge already shot down ECOT’s request for an order to block ODE from conducting an attendance audit, which is done every five years and only looks at a single school year.


But ECOT spokesperson and long-time lobbyist Neil Clark says the online charter school system is following a contract signed in 2002 that spelled out the standards of an audit. According to Clark, the state is trying to break away from those standards.


Clark: “Our attorneys are in the room and they’ve made it very clear that any information that the department of education asks outside of our contract that they will need to file other paperwork with the court and make a request to the court that we submit the other data.”


And Clark says the lawsuit against ODE over that contract continues.

The battle over ECOT’s attendance records started earlier this year. The Ohio Department of Education has tried several times to perform an audit to find out just how much instruction time each of its nearly 15,000 students is receiving on a daily, weekly and annual basis.


A student must receive 920 hours of educational instruction a year - which translates to a minimum of five hours a day. 


But according to ODE’s court filing, a preliminary audit found that most of ECOT’s students were only getting about one hour of instruction a day.


Clark says that’s “outrageously false.”


Clark: “And I have no idea where the special counsel for the AG obtained that information that in our particular position is ludicrous but that will ultimately come out in further detailed audits so I have no idea how they acquired that information or where they got it from.”


Chow: “Wouldn’t, wouldn’t more information, wouldn’t handing over more information to ODE clear up those kinds of things?”


Clark: “Now I appreciate what you’re saying but we have a contract. The contract specifically states what we’re supposed to do. Until the court tells us what to do we are going to follow the contract. So all the comments that can be made about how we should or what can we do to clear up the thing -- this is now in litigation so it requires a judge to tell us what to do -- not ODE -- period.”


ECOT received $108 million from the state last school year. If the preliminary attendance audit holds up, ECOT could lose tens of millions of dollars in repayment. 


In a letter to parents, ECOT’s superintendent implies that the department of education is trying to eliminate the online charter school. The letter added that ODE is changing the rules which could lead to ECOT closing its doors.


The department has declined a request to comment because of the pending litigation.


Democrats in the General Assembly have introduced a bill that would strengthen attendance standards and require e-schools like ECOT to report their attendance numbers every month to the education department. 


The legal fight over the attendance records is expected to go back to court within the next couple of weeks.


The Statehouse News Bureau was founded in 1980 to provide educational, comprehensive coverage of legislation, elections, issues and other activities surrounding the Statehouse to Ohio's public radio and television stations. To this day, the Bureau remains the only broadcast outlet dedicated to in-depth coverage of state government news and topics of statewide interest. The Bureau is funded througheTech Ohio, and is managed by ideastream. The reporters at the Bureau follow the concerns of the citizens and voters of Ohio, as well as the actions of the Governor, the Ohio General Assembly, the Ohio Supreme Court, and other elected officials. We strive to cover statehouse news, government issues, Ohio politics, and concerns of business, culture and the arts with balance and fairness, and work to present diverse voices and points of view from the Statehouse and throughout Ohio. The three award-winning journalists at the bureau have more than 60 combined years of radio and television experience. They can be heard on National Public Radio and are regular contributors to Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Marketplace. Every weekday, the Statehouse News Bureau produces in-depth news reports forOhio's public radio stations. Those stories are also available on this website, either on the front page or in our archives. Weekly, the Statehouse News Bureau produces a television show from our studios in the Statehouse. The State of Ohio is an unique blend of news, interviews, talk and analysis, and is broadcast on Ohio's public television stations. The Statehouse News Bureau also produces special programming throughout the year, including the Governor's annual State of the State address to the Ohio General Assembly and a five-part year-end review.
Related Content