House Leads on Effort to Provide Further Oversight of Ohio's E-Schools
COLUMBUS—State Representative Keith Faber (R-Celina) applauded the passage of legislation that regulates and updates the management of e-schools by the Ohio House of Representatives. The legislation strives to provide transparency and accountability for taxpayers and for students and their families.
As of 2016, e-schools served about 180,000 students across the country, providing a non-traditional educational option for many families. The initiatives approved during yesterday’s House session seek to maintain this option for the families that need it, while also ensuring they are regulated appropriately as to provide quality education for Ohio’s students.
Recently, Rep. Faber and Rep. Bill Reineke (R-Tiffin) championed House Bill 707, legislation that placed additional oversight and stronger guardrails around e-schools. A number of these provisions were then incorporated into Amended Substitute Senate Bill 216, sponsored by State Senator Matt Huffman (R-Lima).
Provisions were also included in House Bill 87, a bill providing instructions for distributing funds returned by schools to the state, sponsored by Rep. Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson).
Both of these bills were approved by the full House yesterday.
“I am pleased the legislature promptly took up and implemented these provisions, and I encourage my colleagues to consider the remaining portions of these bills soon,” said Rep. Faber. “I look forward to meaningful discussions as to new funding models outlined in the amendments.”
The provisions placed into Am. Sub. S.B. 216 are as follows:
• Allows for liability indemnification to the state. This works to prevent a person from maintaining a “two-way” interest in both the state and the non-profit that runs the school.
• In an effort to improve communication and clarity between e-schools and the Ohio Department of Education (ODE), the bill creates a joint study committee to hear from witnesses across the state and the country on e-school best practices. The committee would consider an e-school funding system based on student competency. The committee would also examine current expense categories for financial disclosure statements.
• Reduces from 105 to 72 the number of consecutive hours of learning opportunities a community school student must fail to participate in before being automatically withdrawn from the school.
• This provision requires ODE to further define certain industry terms, including “documentation of online learning” and “idle time,” in order to create a more lucid and uniform standard across the state. These definitions will then be recommended to the Joint Education Oversight Committee (JEOC), which will coordinate with ODE for public hearings.
Provisions incorporated into H.B. 87 are as follows:
• Allows the Auditor of State to be consulted on ODE policies that pertain to e-school hardware and software. This provision allows the office to contribute to policy developments while eliminating the conflict of interest, as currently the auditor is required to be part of policy adoption on which the auditor also audits compliance.
• ODE will be required to create rules specifically regarding standards for learning management software utilized by e-schools.
These bills will now go to the governor for his consideration.