Online school asks Ohio court to block $60M state clawback

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — One of the nation’s largest online charter schools on Wednesday asked the Ohio Supreme Court to block the state’s efforts to recoup $60 million from the school.

It’s the latest round in a multi-pronged legal fight by the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow against the state, stemming from how attendance was tracked to determine school funding.

The e-school of some 15,000 students contends officials unfairly changed that. The state determined that ECOT didn’t have documentation of student logins to justify more than half of the nearly $109 million it got for the 2015-16 school year, and the State Board of Education voted to pursue repayment of that portion.

ECOT’s new filing argues that the board and the Department of Education abused their discretion in moving forward with that process, and that if their actions stand, it will “spell the death knell for ECOT.” The school is asking the high court to order the board and the department to reverse course, or to block the board from recouping the funds.

The school is separately suing the school board over how it handled voting on the repayment matter.

The department has declined to comment on specifics in the litigation.

“The Ohio Department of Education supports quality school choice options for students and is committed to making sure that all community schools receive their correct funding,” spokeswoman Brittany Halpin said.

The state proposed that ECOT’s repayment be made through deductions from the school’s monthly allocation over the next two years.

ECOT representatives oppose that timeline as too rushed. They have said the school plans to lay off 350 workers, or about a quarter of its employees, this summer in response to that collection timeframe.

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