A Franklin County judge has ruled that the Ohio Department of Education can try to figure out whether the $108 million it sent to the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow last school year was overpaid by tens of millions of dollars.
Well, that's a relief.
ECOT sued the state last week to keep it from determining whether students were actually participating in their educational program, rather than just receiving it. ECOT's Superintendent called the ODE effort "underhanded" in an email over the weekend -- an email in which he confirmed that if ODE followed through on its efforts to ascertain ECOT's actual participation it could force the school to close.
So now ODE can find out if ECOT should have been paid $108 million, or a substantially smaller amount. At stake is nothing less than the existence of the country's largest for-profit charter school -- the size of which made even the staunchest charter school advocates blush.
For years, I've been pointing out ECOT's horrific performance record, its out-of-whack funding scheme and its political heft.
Even though more children fail to graduate in time at ECOT than any other school in the country, Gov. John Kasich, Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger and former House Speaker Bill Batchelder all spoke at ECOT's graduation ceremonies.
Wonder if there's any regrets?
If ODE finds the same results it did last year at Provost Academy, then as much as $86.4 million of the $108 million sent to ECOT last year may have to be repaid.
Extending that over the course of the school's existence could mean that as much as $723 million of the $903 million sent to ECOT since 2000 went to pay for kids ECOT can't prove it ever educated.
It's not like that leap is unthinkable. After all, it's first year of existence, Ohio Auditor of State Jim Petro found that ECOT was paid $1.7 million for kids it couldn't prove it had.
ECOT's lawsuit revealed that the year after that finding, ECOT struck a deal with ODE to be paid for kids it offered instruction to, as long as the student finished their first assignment (among other ways).
Again, as encouraging as it is to see ODE take on the state's largest charter school, it is a reminder of just how well-earned Ohio's national reputation as a charter school backwater had become until recently.
And how many hundreds of millions of taxpayers' dollars have been wasted.