Thursday, Jan 18, 2018
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Education

Lake Erie West takes steps to pull charter school sponsorship

Educational Service Center of Lake Erie West has taken steps to pull its sponsorship for the troubled Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, putting the statewide online school closer to ending operations.

The board of Toledo's Lake Erie West voted Tuesday to suspend the nearly 20-year-old agreement with ECOT, which owes just shy of $80 million to the state for overreporting student attendance for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years.

The resolution, approved 5-0, calls for terminating ECOT's sponsorship near or at the conclusion of the current semester, which ends next week. The board took the action because of the charter school’s financial woes.

Apryl Morin, the director of community schools for Lake Erie West, said in an email that ECOT told Lake Erie West it is unable to secure bonding for its fiscal officer, which is required by law to operate schools in Ohio.

"Given ECOT’s unequivocal declarations that it cannot afford to remain open for the remainder of the school year, [Lake Erie West] has initiated proceedings to suspend ECOT’s operations at or near the end of the current semester and terminate its sponsorship contract," said Ms. Morin, who was authorized by the board to discuss issues regarding ECOT.

ECOT has five days to respond to Lake Erie West and appeal the suspension of its sponsorship.

The decision to end sponsorship comes on the heels of the Ohio Supreme Court rejecting a plea from ECOT to fast-track its appeal of the state's efforts to reclaim the $80 million the Ohio Department of Education determined it was owed because the charter school over reported student attendance.

ECOT, the state's largest charter school, argued to the court that it could be forced to close during the current school year without an expedited decision. The court voted 5-1 not to speed up the appeal.

According to the Lake Erie West resolution for ending sponsorship, ECOT is on track to have a negative cash balance by March, forcing the online schools to close in the middle of the semester and causing substantial harm to ECOT's nearly 12,000 students.

The department of education determined ECOT was overpaid $60 million for not verifying most of its reported enrollment for the 2015-16 school year. In September, a review found the state was owed $19.2 million more for unverified enrollment of ECOT students during the 2016-17 school year.

The state has been deducting $2.5 million from the school's current monthly subsidies to recover the money.

Contact Mark Reiter at: markreiter@theblade.com or 419-724-6199

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