Ohio's largest online charter school has sued the state in an effort to stop an attendance audit that could cost it millions of dollars in funding.
The Columbus Dispatch reports that the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) wants to block the Ohio Department of Education from forcing the school to provide records of daily student log-in times.
The state's preliminary review of attendance at ECOT raised questions and noted that “most log-in times from these files did not substantiate 5 hours per day of log-in time for the students reviewed.”
The accuracy of attendance figures is crucial because they help determine how much state aid a school receives. ECOT gets about $107 million per year for more than 15,000 students.
The lawsuit comes just three days before the department was to begin a final attendance review of the school. A similar review last year forced another school, Provost Academy, to repay $800,000 to the state, equal to about 80 percent of its total funding.
In the lawsuit, ECOT contends that using log-in times to calculate attendance violates a funding agreement the school signed with the state Department of Education in January 2003 after an attendance dispute. That agreement, ECOT argues, doesn’t say that students must attend 920 hours of classroom time but that students “must be presented with at least 920 hours of learning opportunities.”
Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Peggy Lehner says she is not familiar with such a contract.
A consultant for ECOT says the Education Department has broken a promise not to require five hours of log-in time per day for the 2015-16 school year.
Department of Education officials declined to address ECOT's allegations.
At online schools, students work on computers from home or other locations instead of a classroom. Last year's audit of Provost found that the school's average student logged in for less than an hour per day.