(TNS) — Ohio online schools would be required to do more intense tracking of student attendance and report participation logs to the state on a monthly basis under a bill introduced today by the Senate minority leader.
"We have to have common sense with this stuff. If you're not there, and there's a pattern of you not being there, then there's repercussions for your actions," said Sen. Joe Schiavoni, D-Boardman. With e-schools, "we just have to make sure that not only does he or she have to be logged on, but engaging in education."
There have been quiet, lingering concerns for years about the veracity of e-school attendance reporting, which is used as a basis for distributing about $275 million in state funding to educate about 39,000 students at those charter schools.
Schiavoni said he introduced the bill after The Dispatch reported the Provost Academy was required to repay about $800,000, roughly 80 percent of its total state funding, after the school could not account for the state minimum required hours for most students.
In fact, the Provost handbook said students would get credit for a full day of learning if they logged in for just one hour — four hours less than the state requires.
On a taped conference call last spring involving a number of employees of Provost's sponsor, EdisonLearning, David Vasconez, the then-vice president of operations for Edison, noted: "At the end of the day, we have two-thirds to maybe 80 percent of our kids who are not attending school much at all."
Schiavoni said, "This e-school issue has the potential to be much larger than just Provost. I see benefit to e-schools for certain circumstances, but I think those circumstances are limited and there are far too many kids that would benefit from brick-and-mortar who are in the e-schools."
Schiavoni's bill, which is co-sponsored by every Senate Democrat, includes a number of proposed requirements:
Separately, the Ohio Charter School Accountability Project, a collaboration that includes progressive think tank Innovation Ohio and the Ohio Education Association, released a study Monday, March 21, finding that nearly one in three charter schools receive all state funding from students coming from higher-performing home districts.
Overall, the study found that 72.5 percent of all state charter funding went to schools that do not outperform the local traditional school district, and 80 percent of money to e-schools came from students who left higher-performing districts.
The study statistics do not include dropout recovery or newly opened schools.
"It's critical that the charter school reforms enacted last year are effectively implemented by the Ohio Department of Education," said Becky Higgins, president of the Ohio Education Association, in a statement. "The students of Ohio deserve nothing less. And efforts to carve out exceptions for e-schools should be resisted."
©2016 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio), distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.