ECOT's fate in hands of Ohio Supreme Court
The fate of Ohio's largest online charter school ECOT is in the hands of the Ohio Supreme Court after oral arguments were heard Tuesday morning. The Ohio Department of Education and ECOT has been fighting for months over whether the state will be reimbursed $80 million for inflated enrollment numbers.
ECOT's attorneys have said the school could reopen if it doesn't have to pay the full amount. Lower court rulings have sided with the Ohio Department of Education.
"Because my daughter can complete and be wildly successful with her state education in two to three hours a day that she is unfundable," said Jeremy Aker, one of dozens of parents and former ECOT students rallied outside the court. "They want to send her somewhere else and I don't believe in that philosophy of putting an education on a clock."
Court records said ECOT was running out of money and would have nothing left by March. The online charter closed in January at the end of its semester.
"What the state seems to be saying is that, 'we gave you that money. We paid for services and we didn't get those in return,'" said Rep. Tavia Galonski, D - Akron. Galonski said she's heard from voters upset about the $80 million ECOT owes. "They want that money returned and they want it now and I've had some angry voters look me in the eye and say, 'I want to know what you're doing about that.'"
ECOT will remain closed for the rest of the school year. If the Ohio Supreme Court upholds lower court rulings, ECOT's attorneys have said it won't be able to reopen.
"Unfortunately you have a bunch of grown adults squabbling over money, bullying children and teachers around at these schools," Akers said.
The Ohio Department of Education released the following statement: "The Department was pleased to have the opportunity to argue this matter before the Supreme Court today. It was clear that the Court had closely read and considered the parties’ briefing. We hope that the Court will agree with the unanimous decisions from the lower courts that the community school funding statute directly ties e-school funding to student participation. Not only is that the correct reading of the statutory language, but it also helps to ensure that students are actually receiving an education, and that taxpayers are purchasing actual educational services with their hard-earned tax dollars."
There's no deadline for when justices will make a decision. Court officials said typically that can take about six months.