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Lepore-Hagan aims to bring accountability, transparency to Ohio online charters

Companion legislation would strengthen attendance requirements following fraud allegations
October 26, 2016
Michele Lepore-Hagan News

State Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown) today announced she is introducing companion legislation to Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni’s Senate Bill 298 to bring more accountability and transparency to Ohio’s online charter schools. 

The comprehensive reform legislation will strengthen attendance requirements for Ohio e-schools; require money to be returned to public school districts if the state auditor finds a charter school has misused taxpayer funds; and establish a bipartisan “E-School Funding Commission” to study the true costs associated with running an online charter school, among other provisions. 

“Investigations show that online charter schools in Ohio are collecting millions in taxpayer dollars, likely by inflating the reported number of enrolled students. This alleged fraud damages the trust of families who look to online charters to prepare their children for success,” said Lepore-Hagan. “Introducing this legislation in both chambers gives lawmakers every opportunity to prove they’re serious about cracking down on rampant fraud and abuse in the online charter school industry.”                        

An important component of Lepore-Hagan’s legislation affirms that e-schools must “provide” rather than “offer” 920 hours of learning opportunities to students in each academic year. The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT), Ohio’s largest online charter school, argued in a lawsuit against the Ohio Department of Education that the law does not require e-schools to actively educate students as long as class materials are made available online. 

In March, the Ohio Department of Education’s audit of the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT), found that the school failed to provide documentation that its students were logged in and adequately engaged in their class work at the level required by the state. ECOT receives approximately $106 million from the state of Ohio to educate more than a reported 15,000 students. 

“To everyone but ECOT it is common sense that if a student isn’t in class, it is nearly impossible for them to earn the education they need to be successful in life,” said Lepore-Hagan. “The courts have said that current law requires e-schools to actually educate their students, not just offer classes, but ECOT continues to try to slip through make-believe loopholes.” 

Ohio e-schools are expected to collect about $275 million in state funding this year to educate more than 39,000 students.