Report details how much money school districts lost to ECOT

(FILE - WSYX/WTTE)

A new report released Wednesday details how much money each school district may have lost to the shuttered online charter school ECOT. ECOT closed during the middle of this school year amid accusations it overcharged the State of Ohio for students who weren’t actually enrolled.

The report released by Innovation Ohio, a progressive think tank, put Columbus City Schools at the top of the list with nearly $63 million dollars in funding going to ECOT instead of CCS.

“It would erase the need for us to possibly ever have to go to those levies,” said Dominic Paretti, a member of the Columbus City School Board. “Property taxpayers paid for this. We’ve seen this experiment fail and we continue to pay for it.”

The State of Ohio has been trying to get about $80 million in taxpayer money returned for inflating enrollment numbers. ECOT at its peak was the nation’s largest online charter school and hailed as a viable school choice for students.

The top of the list compiled by Innovation Ohio had several urban districts at the top but school officials from across Ohio at the release of the report said rural districts were also hit hard. The superintendent for Federal Hocking Local Schools said his district of roughly 1100 students lost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“What I could have done over the last eight years with that money,” said George Wood, the superintendent of Federal Hocking Local Schools in Athens County. “It’s a teacher and an aide. It’s three times what we spend on textbooks. It’s a new bus every year and it all went to a school district that didn’t even exist called ECOT.”

Senate Republican Spokesman John Fortney responded to the report saying, “Columbus Public Schools had a $137 million cash balance at the end of the 2017 fiscal year,” he said. “Federal Hocking had a $7 million end of year cash balance. In the last two budget cycles Ohio has invested more than $1 billion into per pupil spending for public schools. Parents who send their students to charter schools do so for a reason, and school choice remains an important option for parents.”

State Auditor Dave Yost released a report earlier this spring saying ECOT intentionally fudged its numbers in an effort to get more state funding. That report has been forwarded to federal and local prosecutors to see if any criminal charges should be filed.

The full report can be seen at innovationohio.org/ecot

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