The Electronic School of Tomorrow (ECOT) is no more.
On January 18, 2018, at a public meeting in Toledo, Ohio, the board members of the Educational Service Center of Lake Erie West voted unanimously to suspend and ultimately terminate its sponsorship of ECOT.
Parents and students were at the meeting to present their pleas for the school to continue to operate and the sponsors to maintain its relationship with the school.
Many spoke and Lisa Burford’s words were representative:
I hope that you consider our children.
Burford went on to explain:
.. that her daughter, who is deaf, had struggled with Toledo’s traditional schools and had been better off in ECOT’s online program, from which she was scheduled to graduate in May.
The school reported an enrollment of about 12,000 students and employed 1000 teachers, making it the largest charter school in America.
A Columbus Dispatch article reminds its readers how ECOT arrived at this juncture:
ECOT’s troubles stem from a state order to repay about $80 million for claiming state funding for thousands of students who did not meet minimum state participation requirements. Under a two-year repayment plan, the Department of Education in July began withholding $2.5 million per month.
In that same article, state Auditor Dave Yost reports in a letter addressed to Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge Michael Holbrook, who will be hearing a related case of receivership for ECOT, as well as attorneys for both the sponsors and ECOT:
… his office performed a recent assessment of the school’s financial condition to ensure it was accurately represented to its sponsor. The analysis found the school would run a $1 million cash deficit as of March.
…also noted that of the $80 million owed to the state, Lager’s companies, Altair and IQ Innovations, are still responsible for repaying a combined $10.7 million, and Lake Erie West owes $804,560.
According to an in-depth article in Mother Jones:
ECOT had long been troubled—it had a graduation rate of just 40 percent and produced more dropouts than any other school in the nation, according to an investigation by the New York Times. But for some, it was a school of last resort, and now that last resort was about to vanish.
Local school districts are preparing for an influx of displaced students.
Many questions still surround this issue:
- Will the Ohio State Department of Education be able to recoup the disputed funds?
- What will happen to the many students now without school homes? How many will enroll in traditional public school? How many will enroll in other online schools?
- What does this narrative mean for other charter schools? Other online schools?
- What policy and legislative changes will we see as a result of the failure of ECOT?
For more information regarding the demise of ECOT: