Politics

Published on June 6th, 2018 | by Terra Goodnight

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Local Schools Hurt By ECOT Mess

Today, school officials and education policy experts spoke about the impacts of the ECOT school disaster on local districts across Ohio. In short, the electronic charter school, which opened its doors in 2000 and has been coddled by Republicans ever since, ensuring state law did not provide proper accountability, was recently caught inflating its enrollment in a $60 million ripoff in the 2015-2016 school year alone. We don’t know how much the school overbilled taxpayers over its 18 years in operation, but today we began to get a sense of how it impacted local schools around the state.

First, an explainer: in Ohio, charter schools like ECOT are funded through deductions from money that would otherwise go to local school districts from the state according to how many students who live in the district elect to attend a charter school instead. In many cases the deductions exceed what the schools would have otherwise received, leaving local property taxpayers on the hook to make up the difference. Schools also lose because the funding approach assumes that when a student is lost to a local school district, their expenses decline accordingly. They do not. Schools incur fixed costs like the full-time salary of a staff member, the cost of running a bus route or heating and cooling a building that doesn’t go away just because of one less student is in the building.

Bottom line, overpayments to ECOT resulting from lax monitoring of their enrollment counts for over a decade, thanks to Republican lawmakers who chose to look the other way means real budget impacts to local districts. As George Wood, Superintendent of Federal Hocking Local Schools in Athens County put it, “it’s a teacher and an aide. It’s three times what we spend on textbooks. It’s a new bus every year.”

Since the 2012-2013 school year, ECOT collected $590 million in taxpayer funding from all but 6 of Ohio’s 613 school districts. 

Find out how your school district was impacted by transfers to ECOT and learn more about the ECOT scandal.


About the Author

Terra Goodnight does Policy Research and Digital Organizing for Innovation Ohio, a progressive-leaning research and advocacy nonprofit in Columbus. She also runs a few Twitter accounts and had earlier careers in state and local government and private sector technology consulting.



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