- ECOT, the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, is a giant Ohio-based charter school which has been battling with the state's Department of Education. Conflict centers around the fact that the charter had been receiving more than $100 million in state education dollars annually, but not necessarily documenting student attendance, which determines funding, reports the Columbus Dispatch.
- After learning that the state has proposed the institution repay $60.4 million over the next two years, it made the decision to layoff a quarter of its workforce across the board, including teachers, administrators, and support staff, according to ECOT spokesman Neil Clark speaking with the Columbus Dispatch. Unless the institution can come up with a different repayment plan, the state has already decided that it would reduce its monthly allotment to ECOT by $2.5 million, beginning July 13.
- Clark said that if ECOT were not able to come up with a repayment plan for five years or less, ECOT would probably have to shutdown.
ECOT's decision to layoff a quarter of its staff as a result of necessary repayment to the state reflects some of the limitations of virtual online schooling, which may be much more difficult to track and measure on student performance. In fact a study from the Fordham Institute last year, highlighted the downsides of specifically Ohio's statewide virtual school, concluding that it could not serve as an adequate alternative to traditional schooling. The study indicated that students enrolled in virtual charters were low-achieving, with research showing that some of their failure was due to lack of support normally received in traditional schools.
In Ohio, the schools get education funding based on enrollment, though now the state is pushing back and trying to make sure that institutions actually track enrollment. In a wave of increased scrutiny over where state dollars are being directed, ECOT is facing a situation where they may be able to repay the state by laying off a quarter of its staff, but might have also hindered quality of instruction — an end which ultimately affects the students. Other online virtual charter schools will need to consider how they are tracking participation, as The National Alliance for Public Charter schools, the 50-State Campaign for Achievement Now and the National Association of Charter School Authorizers called for greater accountability of virtual charters in June.