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Ohio Lawmakers Wrestle With Complicated Issue Of E-School Funding

Kantele Franko
Associated Press

The Ohio General Assembly is exploring its options when it comes to how the state gives money to e-schools. As lawmakers are discovering, though, the issue gets complex when considering the different types of online academies.

There are charter schools, dropout prevention and recovery schools, and digital platforms found within traditional public schools.

The joint committee on e-school funding is trying to figure out what factor should be tied with funding, such as enrollment, course completion, and graduation. 

Erik Tritsch of the Fairborn Digital Academy says it should be a little of everything.

“This would allow schools to plan in budget for fixed costs of running a school and incentivize schools to help students make progress toward graduation,” Tritsch says. “Which should be the goal of our students, not just logging into class.”

The issue made headlines when the Ohio Department of Education determined that the now closed Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) owed the state about $80 million. The education department said ECOT's student log-in data showed the state overpaid the online charter school for students that were not participating in class.

The Ohio Attorney General has sued ECOT founder Bill Lager to recover millions of dollars the state says it’s still owed, but no criminal charges have yet been filed.

Another question for legislature’s joint committee is whether or not the funding formula should vary depending on the kind of school. Lawmakers say they plan to have in-depth conversations before possibly making recommendations in this year’s budget.