In two new commercials, the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) lies about the actions that the Ohio Department of Education is trying to take to ensure that the school is properly following operating procedures.  The two commercials claim that “the Ohio Department of Education is trying to close” ECOT.

In reality, the Ohio Department of Education is actually trying to conduct a routine FTE Review to confirm that taxpayer dollars are being accurately delivered to the online giant.

Here is information from ODE’s FTE Review Handbook that describes the task ODE is attempting to complete per state law (referenced at the end):

Community schools enter data concerning the enrollment and attendance of their students into ODDEX and the ODDEX data populates the School Options Enrollment System (SOES) which is used by the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) to inform public districts about their residence who are enrolled in community schools. Area coordinators conduct full-time equivalency (FTE) reviews to verify the accuracy of the enrollment and attendance data entered by community schools into ODDEX.

An ODE FTE review team examines enrollment and attendance policies, student enrollment data and the school’s procedure for maintaining enrollment and attendance documentation that substantiates whether the data reported in the SOES for funding is accurate and policies are compliant with governing law and rules. The review team compares the source enrollment and attendance data with the ODDEX/SOES data submitted by the community school for funding and checks the validity of the IEP’s being implemented in the school.

This handbook delineates and describes the procedures and forms that are generally used to conduct FTE reviews. It indicates what documentation should be collected and maintained by community schools and addresses issues involved in conducting FTE reviews. The FTE reviewer or team may exercise discretion in implementing the various aspects of the review, provided the reviewer is consistent with governing laws, rules and this manual, to assure that the review is conducted properly. Unique aspects or programs of a school may require the area coordinator to modify or skip certain steps in the review process and accept alternative supporting documents.

The area coordinator has the authority, in consultation with the Director of Finance Program Services, to request such documents as necessary to complete the review from any necessary personnel of a community school or of a traditional public school district. Nothing contained within this handbook shall be construed as limiting the area coordinator or other charged personnel in obtaining such documentation or information as necessary to complete the review mandated under ORC 3314.08(K)(1).

ORC 3314.08 (K) (1) – If the department determines that a review of a community school’s enrollment is necessary, such review shall be completed and written notice of the findings shall be provided to the governing authority of the community school and its sponsor within ninety days of the end of the community school’s fiscal year unless extended for a period not to exceed thirty additional days….

ODE simply has a job to do to ensure that the agency is fulfilling it’s obligation to implement Ohio Revised Code (i.e., state law) with fidelity.  ECOT has refused to comply and has taken ODE to court to try to stop them from following the law.  ODE is not “trying to close ECOT” as the commercials flatly state, but is merely trying to do this standard review that all schools periodically take part in.

Dear Rajah, the “bureaucrats” at ODE have never stated that they are trying to close the school. The truth is that ECOT Superintendent Rick Teeters first introduced the notion of ECOT closing, but not because ODE was forcing them to make such a decision:

“In fact, they would likely force us and other e-schools to close our doors altogether.” (Rick Teeters, ECOT Facebook page, July 11, 8:00 am)

Mr. Teeters – stop spreading the fear and lies.  If a simple review of your records is going to expose such horrifying practices relative to state law that you “are forced” to close, that’s not on ODE, that’s on you and your operation.  Play by the rules that the General Assembly has set forth and that ODE is simply trying to enforce (including the routine FTE Review that requires you to turn over records of your operational practices).

No, Summer, despite what the highly-paid adults running the show at ECOT have told you, ODE does not want to “take that away from you”.  What the adults at ODE are trying to do is ensure that ECOT is being funded properly, providing the appropriate level of assistance to you and every student, and being good stewards of taxpayer dollars by ensuring that ECOT is not engaging in fraudulent activities with the funds they are receiving that are targeted toward providing you a high-quality education.

But more than anything, I’m sorry you’re being used by Bill Lager and company as a sympathetic pawn to further their agenda.  It just goes to show that Lager will go to any length to keep his gravy train running.