Sens Schiavoni And Sawyer Call For Complete Review Of E-School Attendance Records
Columbus Dispatch report points to possible systemic problem with online schools

Columbus – Today, Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) and Senator Tom Sawyer (D-Akron) called for immediate action by the Ohio Department of Education after the Columbus Dispatch uncovered evidence that Provost Academy, an online charter school based in Columbus, had been vastly overpaid as a result of poor and inaccurate reporting of student attendance data. 

“Taking accurate attendance is a basic function of any school, and e-schools should not be an exception,” said Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni. “No e-school should be paid to educate full-time students if the students only log in to class 20 percent of the time. We call on the Ohio Department of Education to conduct a thorough check of all e-school attendance data, so taxpayer dollars aren’t squandered and students aren’t cheated out of the education they deserve.”

The situation at Provost Academy raises troubling questions about a potentially systemic problem with e-school oversight. If Provost – which has fewer than 200 students – was able to overbill the state for more than $800,000 in one year, then major e-schools like ECOT – with some 15,000 students – might have been vastly overpaid.

After the recent enactment of charter school reforms, some e-schools have responded with proposed amendments that would weaken new reporting requirements for student attendance. One of the amendments would adjust the law to say that e-schools must only “offer” rather than “provide” a full year’s worth of online courses to their students.

"It is no surprise that House Bill 2's tougher oversight of charter schools would prompt the worst performing e-schools to hide their failure to educate Ohio's children and their fraudulent misuse of taxpayer dollars," said Senator Sawyer, the Ranking Member of the Senate Education Committee. "It is our job to make sure these efforts to be dishonest are not successful."

Studies have shown that Ohio e-school students fall far behind their peers, and those who try to rejoin traditional classrooms often have significant difficulty catching up. Given what we now know about Provost Academy, the poor academic performance of online school students may be the result of the schools failing to closely monitor the amount of time students are actually logged in to online courses and engaged in learning activities.

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