No more breaks for ECOT

There is a certain amount of irony in Democrat Zack Space’s choice of an issue to promote his candidacy for Ohio state auditor. It is that in accusing some state officials of not doing their jobs regarding the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, Space indirectly gives the Republican incumbent, Dave Yost, a giant pat on the back.

Yost, who is running for attorney general in next year’s election, deserves enormous credit for blowing the whistle on the ECOT. No doubt he shares some of Space’s concern.

“The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow should have been stopped in its tracks years ago,” Space said during a campaign appearance in Martins Ferry. He is right about that.

The ECOT is a for-profit online school, one of many charter schools that receives state funding. As we have pointed out for years, both online and traditional classroom charters have not been held to the same standards as public schools.

Legislators have attempted to remedy that during the past couple of years, but troubling gaps between standards for public schools and the charters that are supposed to be high-quality alternatives remain.

Yost’s office found that the ECOT was unable to provide satisfactory documentation of the amount of time students spent in online school work. And, it has been pointed out, the online institution has a terrible graduation rate — fewer than 40 percent, according to a published report.

Neither state Department of Education officials nor the public, in our area, at least, would tolerate a school system graduating fewer than half its students.

Now, also according to a published report, ECOT officials are seeking a way out of state graduation-rate requirements. They want to be classed as a “dropout-recovery” school. That would allow them to meet state standards with a graduation percentage as low as 8.

Yes, eight.

State officials finally seem determined to crack down on underperforming charter schools. In the ECOT case, they are trying to recover about $60 million in state payments to the company.

Good. Far from granting failures such as the ECOT any more breaks, state officials should be cracking the whip over their heads. Space and Yost may disagree about a variety of things, but that is not one of them.

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