In an amicus brief with the Ohio Supreme Court, Democrats in the Ohio Senate and House of Representatives took ECOT to task for trying to make a “mockery” of Ohio’s public education system in the case of The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow v. Ohio Department of Education.
The brief responds to ECOT’s ongoing lawsuit to avoid repaying nearly $80 million after audits conducted by the Department of Education (ODE) determined the online charter school had inflated student attendance.
“ECOT is demanding a ruling from this court which would protect its funding stream to the detriment of thousands of students they failed to teach,” members of the House and Senate Democratic Caucuses wrote in the amicus brief. “Not only would this make a mockery of the existing statutory and administrative structure, but it would render absurd Ohio’s constitutional and moral obligation to provide a ‘thorough and efficient’ public education.”
State Sen. Joe Schiavoni, of Boardman, slammed ECOT for profiteering on the backs of students.
“If ECOT cared less about profits and more about its students, they never would have filed this lawsuit,” said Schiavoni, the attorney of record on the amicus brief and a longtime advocate for charter school reform. “It’s clear that ECOT and other e-schools are required under Ohio law to keep accurate records that show how long students are logged on their computers.”
ECOT filed the lawsuit more than a year ago claiming it is not required to document how many hours its students engaged in learning. Instead, the e-school says it only has to submit student enrollment numbers to receive state funding. After losing in Franklin County Common Pleas Court and the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, ECOT has appealed to the Supreme Court of Ohio.
“For too long, charter schools like ECOT had a free pass in Ohio, writing their own rules that put profit ahead of letting our children learn the skills they need to succeed in life,” said state Rep. David Leland, former chair of the Ohio Democratic Party. “Our children won’t have an equal opportunity to grow or get ahead until all schools are held to the same high standards that taxpayers expect and deserve.”
The amicus brief dismisses ECOT’s arguments and shows how the Ohio Revised Code clearly spells out the requirement for e-schools to keep accurate attendance records based on hours of classwork, both online and offline. Furthermore, the brief explains the intent of legislators when the General Assembly passed school funding legislation that included standards for accountability.
“Can Ohio truly fulfill its constitutional duties, and moral obligation, to educate its citizenry, if every year hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars flow to e-schools without any prescribed method of oversight?” Democratic legislators said in the brief.
They said the entire system of public school regulation is geared toward ensuring children receive an education.
“The record in this case reflects that ECOT and other e-school amici failed in this obligation and are callous toward that failure,” the brief said. “The state should not have to withhold funding to guarantee those who purport to be educators take basic steps to teach children in their charge, but this case shows they must.”
A copy of the amicus brief can found here.