Thursday, July 20, 2017

Don't think ECOT fine is about quality. It's about money.

There's been an interesting take from some folks suggesting that the $60 million fine being levied by the state against the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) -- the nation's allegedly largest K-12 school and Ohio's first virtual school -- is a sign that the state is getting serious about quality.

As the Akron Beacon Journal put it:
 "More important is what repayment represents, the state doing a better job of holding poor performing charter schools accountable and delivering consequences if they fall short."
Except all the $60 million demonstrates is the state is finally checking to see whether we are paying poor performing charters the correct amount. The fine has nothing to do with quality. Zip. The state says we should still pour tax dollars into ECOT, despite its horrible academic performance. Just a different amount.

The problem in Ohio is that the state never really cared about whether it was paying the right amount to schools like ECOT. And until recently it didn't really care about charter performance. Now they care about the payments, but that's a totally separate issue from performance.

ECOT has been around 16 years. It has never done well on any version of Ohio's report card. It doesn't graduate even 4 out of 10 kids.

Yet that wasn't what prompted the state to come down on ECOT -- it was whether they actually were providing any educational services to kids -- something you would think would be a basic oversight function by the state's public education overseers. But something the state hadn't done for ECOT's first 15 years -- or at least looked away when the problems did come up.

Look, I'm glad the Department is finally getting serious about how much taxpayer funding goes to charters. However, I need to see them be more serious about whether we should be giving any taxpayer dollars to poor performing schools like ECOT before I'll be willing to say the Department is finally interested in the quality of school options for kids.


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