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Ohio Legislatures Approves Changes To Online Charter School Laws

Kantele Franko
Associated Press

In their final sessions before summer break, the Ohio General Assembly sent two bills to the governor that attempt to clean up funding for the state’s online charter school system. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle believe this is an important step toward more transparency and accountability. 

The measures are in response to the closing of ECOT, which was the state’s largest online charter school. Provisions in HB 87 explain where money would go if the state were to claw back funds, and that another school’s rating would not be affected by taking on displaced online charter school students.

The legislature temporarily relaxed academic performance standards on another virtual school, the Toledo-based Ohio Virtual Academy, which took in thousands of students from ECOT. The “safe harbor” was lobbied for by Virtual Academy, which said it shouldn’t be punished for accepting 4,200 students dropped in the middle of the school year.

As Republican state Sen. Peggy Lehner explains, the legislature also set up a study commission in SB 216 to try and overhaul the standards of online learning. 

“At the same time assures that children have access to a high-quality education, that they actually learn and that the state of Ohio spends its education dollars well,” Lehner says.

ECOT was closed by its sponsor in January after financial struggles stemming from the state's demand that it repay nearly $80 million in unjustified public funding after over-reporting attendance.

Lehner says it's well past time to look into these issues. Democrats criticized Republicans for not taking action years ago on this issue.

A spokesperson for Gov. John Kasich says the legislation will undergo the usual review process.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.