Login | August 19, 2018

Online school challenges state’s calculation of student funding

DAN TREVAS
Supreme Court
Public Information Office

Published: February 13, 2018

The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) was Ohio’s first online community school and has grown into the state’s largest. Community schools, also known charter schools, receive funding from the state. But, unlike public school districts, they cannot levy local taxes. Since ECOT’s opening in 2002, the Ohio Department of Education and state lawmakers have developed and modified the rules to measure student attendance at e-schools.

For the 2015-2016 school year, ECOT claimed it enrolled 15,000 students and was owed more than $100 million from the state in school funding. The education department conducted a review and asked for data verifying the amount of time students were online doing classwork. The department determined that ECOT could prove only that far fewer students were actually attending and required ECOT to pay back more than $60 million.

ECOT initiated legal challenges, stating the law, R.C. 3314.08, established a funding calculation for community schools based on the “enrollment” of students. Enrollment is measured by “learning opportunities” offered by the e-school to its students. ECOT claims the law doesn’t permit the state to base funding on student participation. The Supreme Court will hear oral argument in ECOT v. Ohio Department of Education, on Feb. 13.

The case is one of seven cases being heard during a two-day session on Feb 13-14.

School Argues Law About Opportunities

ECOT explains that R.C. 3314.08 describes how the department is allowed to “adjust” funding for community schools when the record reflects that a student wasn’t enrolled for the entire school year. The statute requires that an e-school offer at least 920 hours of “learning opportunities” to students each school year, and allows the department to reduce funding based on documentation of withdrawal, which can include when students cease participation in learning opportunities. ECOT maintains that nothing in the section permits the state to base funding on documentation of the exact number of hours students participated in learning opportunities.

A Franklin County Common Pleas Court rejected ECOT’s interpretation of the law, and the Tenth District Court of Appeals affirmed the decision. ECOT raised several objections to the Tenth District’s ruling when appealing to the Supreme Court, but the Court agreed to consider only the challenge based on the interpretation of R.C. 3314.08.

Student Participation Always a Factor in Funding, Department Asserts

The education department maintains that under ECOT’s interpretation of the law, the e-school would receive a full year of funding for each student as long as the student logged into the ECOT platform for a few minutes at least once every 30 days — even if the student didn’t access a single educational opportunity. The department counters that a provision in R.C. 3314.08(H)(3) limits the credit an e-school can claim for student participation in a day to 10 hours. The state argues that limit leads to the conclusion that to earn funding, the school must demonstrate students participated in the learning opportunities that were offered.

The department notes that it assumed through its earlier reviews of ECOT that the school was documenting student participation and the department didn’t ask for records until it received information that student work wasn’t being tracked. The department notes that ECOT’s superintendent admitted during the trial that he was aware the department had the ability to use student participation data to calculate funding.

Oral Arguments Scheduled

The sessions start at 9 a.m. on both days at the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center in Columbus. All arguments are streamed live online at sc.ohio.gov and broadcast live and archived on The Ohio Channel.

Case Previews Available

Along with the brief summaries below, in-depth previews of the seven cases being heard are now available on the court’s website at www.courtnewsohio.gov.

Tuesday Feb. 13

In 2004, Ohio lawmakers revised the procedures for filing asbestos-related personal injury lawsuits. Those with lung cancer and a history of smoking must provide proof at the initial stages of the case that asbestos exposure was a significant factor in causing their cancer. In Union Carbide v. Turner, the determination of whether a Cuyahoga County man with lung cancer was a regular cigar smoker is in dispute. The Court will examine whether the man must provide a report from a “competent medical authority” that he wasn’t a smoker, or the trial court can declare the smoker’s status by the weight of the evidence and decide if the case moves forward.

A Cuyahoga County social worker was assigned to interview a Cleveland man who was being held in jail on allegations that he raped a 14-year-old. The social worker testified at the man’s trial about the statements he made to her during the interview. The defendant was found guilty and sentenced to prison, but his conviction was overturned on appeal. The county prosecutor contends in State v. Jackson that the social worker’s duty to report certain information to law enforcement didn’t make her an agent of law enforcement with the obligation to give Miranda warnings to the man.

A federal bankruptcy court has submitted questions to the Ohio Supreme Court about state law governing mortgages in The Bank of New York Mellon v. Rhiel. A married Reynoldsburg man applied to refinance the mortgage on his and his wife’s house in 2007. He was listed as the “Borrower” on the lender’s mortgage paperwork, but his wife wasn’t. He and his wife each signed the mortgage and initialed the pages. In 2014, the couple filed for bankruptcy. The lender and the bankruptcy trustee disagree on whether the wife transferred her interest in the property in the refinancing. The bankruptcy court asks the Court to interpret a state law that “cures defects” in mortgages.

Wednesday, Feb. 14.

The Worthington grocery store in Worthington City Schools Bd. of Edn. v. Franklin Cty. Bd of Revision disputes the $3.95 million value approved by the state tax appeals board for taxing the property. The property doesn’t include a parking lot, but the store has an easement for parking with the owner of the parking lot that spans the front of several stores. The store argues that its appraiser’s adjustment to the value of similar properties to account for the store’s lack of its own parking lot was appropriate. The store supports a lesser taxable value of $2.39 million.

In Pelletier v. City of Campbell, a woman who drove through a stop sign and crashed into a vehicle said she didn’t see the stop sign because of overgrown shrubs. The woman sued the city of Campbell. The city argues it is entitled to summary judgment in the case because it has immunity from civil liability as part of the government. The woman counters that an exception to government immunity applies because the city failed to remove an obstruction from a public road and failed to keep the road in repair.

A Northfield woman was injured in a motorcycle accident while on the way to a client’s home. She filed for workers’ compensation benefits, which the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation denied, and the woman appealed. With the appeal pending, the woman settled her lawsuit for her injuries with her insurance company and that of the driver’s, and she didn’t notify the bureau of the settlement. In Bureau of Workers’ Compensation v. Verlinger, the Court will determine if the woman was a “claimant” under the law, which required her to notify the bureau, or if the initial denial of her claim relieved her of the obligation.


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