Court is right to hold ECOT accountable

Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor summed up the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow’s argument against state officials in one sentence on Tuesday.

“How is that not absurd?” she asked an ECOT attorney.

For years, ECOT got away with a scheme that would have resulted in a state takeover of any public school system. But ECOT officials, operating under now-amended Ohio charter school rules, got away with it for a time.

ECOT collected state subsidies for educating children based on the number of them signed up for its online classes. But when it came to how many of those students actually were logging in to online classes, ECOT was unable to provide the proof state officials wanted.

That resulted in the state suspending payments to ECOT. In addition, officials have taken steps to collect about $80 million paid improperly to ECOT.

Online programs by ECOT were shut down about three weeks ago. That affected about 12,000 students and hundreds of teachers.

ECOT officials took the state to court, insisting they should not have to repay the money. That led to oral arguments this week before Ohio’s highest court.

Incredibly, ECOT attorneys seem to be resting their case on a contention their client should be paid solely on the basis of how many students signed up for online classes, without regard to how many actually participated. That prompted O’Connor to voice her criticism.

But the argument descended to an even more absurd level. An ECOT attorney said such a funding system would be “just like (what) would happen at a brick-and-mortar school.” If he was referring to Ohio public schools, he is dead wrong.

It is true public school systems receive state aid based on enrollment. But they also are required to report attendance, among other aspects of how well they are serving students.

Clearly, high court justices should reject the ECOT argument. To allow it or any other charter school to skate past reasonable performance standards would be, well, absurd.