COLUMBUS (WDTN) — If you fund a school in advance, how do you get your money back if it closes?
That’s the fundamental question behind the trepidation Ohio State Auditor Dave Yost has with funding ECOT prior to the start of the 2017-18 school year.
Yost reached out to the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) to ask them to withhold a portion of the funding the school gets prior to school starting in the fall.
His reasoning is based on public statements the school has made to the courts and their board.
“With the multiple stories we’ve heard and all of the confusion and the litigation, I’m afraid I’m gonna turn Ronald Regan on his head and say, in this case, we need to verify, then trust,” said Yost.
Yost says the school has warned that enrollment has seen unprecedented declines, 12 percent fewer students are expected in the fall.
However, Yost says, the computer program that tracks enrollment doesn’t reflect those claims; for that Yost would prefer the state take steps to protect taxpayers dollars.
According to a letter in response, the ODE shared his concerns and assessment.
The state is putting a portion of funding ECOT would get into escrow, and will release it to the school when their enrollment is verified in the fall.
Part of the reason this is even an issue is tied to how the school has tracked student enrollment and participation.
Earlier this year, the school agreed to update its logs for all students to reflect hours of participation; which is how they are funded.
That update was supposed to be completed prior to July and according to the ODE that didn’t happen.
Because the participation numbers can’t be backed up by the school, and because it has intimated it may be forced to close as a result of having to pay the state back for being overpaid for the 2015-16 school year; Yost says, steps needed to be taken.
“I’m worried that they’re trying to improve their cash flow during this claw back period,” said Yost. “And if they really are, as they say, in a death spiral; Ohio may never get its money back.”