Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT), Ohio’s largest online charter school, said it needs to cut spending for the upcoming school year by more than $56.0 million in order to repay $60.0 million in overpayments. This will result in the loss of 250 jobs.
In the face of falling enrolment, administrators at the Columbus-based online school signed off on a $75.5-million spending plan for the current 2016-17 school year. Unfortunately, a copy of the budget is not publicly available publicly as of this writing.
During the meeting, ECOT said it would spend more than the $58.5 million it expects to receive from the state this year and is using bank deposits to help it get by. The board was told that enrolment in July is down to 13,804, a 12.4% year-over-year drop.
That’s also roughly 500 students below the amount that ECOT billed the state for this month, which netted the school $6.15 million. ECOT couldn’t explain the discrepancy in enrolment reported for its July payment. The difference between the two enrolments is approximately $300,000 a month in state funds.
Both figures are significantly higher than the 8,600 students that the state Department of Education determined ECOT was entitled to for the 2015-16 school year, accounting for around $44.6 million.
ECOT claimed 15,300 students that year but did not have the documentation to prove that many students actually participated in daily schoolwork.
In its defense, ECOT is essentially saying that its students do not have to perform work for it to get paid by the state; the school only needs to make learning opportunities available to them. The courts don’t seem to agree, however, with the Ohio Supreme Court weighing in on the matter.
The 250 layoffs will occur at the end of July, with roughly half that number being teachers. Approximately 65 employees from the ECOT help desk and call center were let go, which might explain why the company’s online Chat feature is currently unavailable.
Roughly 43% of the laid-off staff have accepted the company’s severance package, which includes two weeks’ pay, 75% of remaining vacation time, and 25% of remaining sick days. Those who have not accepted the company’s severance package have 20 days to make a final decision.
“ECOT slashing $56 million in spending, laying off 250 due to overpayments,” The Columbus Dispatch, July 26, 2017.
“Legal,” Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow Ohio, last accessed July 26, 2017.
“ECOT:Home Page,” Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow Ohio, last accessed July 26, 2017.