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Ohio Must Rethink How Online Charter Schools Are Funded, Says State's Auditor

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Ohio's state auditor is calling for a change in the way the state funds online charter schools, according to the Columbus Dispatch.

At a statewide charter school summit, Dave Yost, a Republican, said that virtual schools should be compensated based on what their students learn—such as the courses they complete—rather than whether they simply log into school.

The current law is not clear on this issue, he said.

Full-time online charter schools nationally have been pummeled by a series of critical reports recently, starting with a study released by Stanford University's Center for Research on Educational Outcomes last October, which found that virtual charter school students, on average, made dramatically less progress academically than their peers in traditional district schools.

Those results were echoed in another study put out last week that focused on Ohio and was commissioned by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a right-leaning think tank that supports school choice.

Yost's proposal was applauded by the National Alliance for Public Charter schools, an influential national charter advocacy group.

"We urge Ohio lawmakers to work with Auditor Yost and the state's charter school community to design and implement learning-based funding for full-time virtual charter schools in a way that leads to improved results in these schools," Nina Rees, the president and CEO of the National Alliance, said in a statement.

Rees' organization released a report in June calling for more—or at least different—regulations for virtual charter schools.

Meanwhile, Ohio's largest online charter school, the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, is currently locked in a legal fight with the state's education department over its student enrollment and attendance records. The state wants to check whether it's been overcharged by ECOT.

A review conducted earlier this year found that most of the students reviewed were not logged in the recommended five hours a day.

Yost's proposal is not without precedence. Florida, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Utah pay schools based on whether students have completed courses or proven they've mastered the material, according to the report from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

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