Ohio, online charter battle in court over student log-ins

COLUMBUS (AP) — Ohio’s largest online charter school wants taxpayers to give it $106 million in annual funding regardless of whether students log in or regularly participate in classes, the state argued in court.

State attorney Douglas Cole’s remarks came as the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow and the Ohio Department of Education battle in court this week over the school’s request for a preliminary injunction barring a requirement to provide log-in durations.

“Students deserve to actually receive an education, not merely be offered the possibility of one,” Cole said. “ECOT is claiming it is entitled to a money tree that never stops growing and never stops bearing fruit.”

The Electronic Classroom’s superintendent, Rick Teeters, testified that the department essentially ambushed the school this year with new requirements that it track log-in durations to prove student headcounts for funding purposes.

“Just manually counting hours a student attends a school … I see no value in that,” Teeters said.

But Cole testified that the school had at least three warnings that new documentation requirements were coming. The Department of Education wants to use the log-in durations to determine if e-school students are receiving the required 920 hours of annual “learning opportunities” required by the state.

A preliminary audit found students logging in for only about an hour per day. The school should “generally expect” students to participate five hours per day, but Teeters largely dismissed the relationship between participation and educational success.

In a final audit last month, ECOT providing no accounting of hours. Under current law, if students are logged in for as little as one minute each day, the school is entitled to the full $106 million, Teeters said.

“They don’t like how the funding is done? So go to the General Assembly and change it,” Marion Little, ECOT’s attorney, said Monday.

Testimony in the case is expected to last at least three days.

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