No Justice No Peace – Ohio Supreme Court Lets ECOT Dangle

High Court Will Not Issue Stay or Expedite ECOT v ODE Case

By John Corrigan


(COLUMBUS) The state’s high court today, in a 5-1 and one abstention ruling, refused to expedite the case of ECOT v. ODE, an appeal from the 10th District Court of Appeals that originated in Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. The request was made either for an expedited case or a stay in action by The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) to stop withholding funds from the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT), the state’s pioneer online school.


ECOT had asked the Court to consider its financial situation in filing a motion to expedite the case. The school has been hamstrung by a June decision of the State Board of Education to claw back $60 million from the school as the Department claims that ECOT could not verify student participation in the online environment, according to a standard that it never passed into administrative rule.


ECOT has said that it had a valid contract in place with ODE, which the Department did not cancel until June 4, 2017 that stipulated a different approach to state funding based on enrollment and student log ins. Ohio Revised Code stipulates that all public schools in Ohio be funded based on the school’s enrollment.  ODE counters that online schools are an exception based on their interpretation of law, which is the issue before the Supreme Court currently.


Justice Terrence O’Donnell voted to allow the expedited case while Justice William O’Neill abstained from voting while he is a candidate for the Democratic nomination for Ohio Governor.  The other justices, all Republican, voted to keep the case in its current place on the docket.


The school had argued that based on the claw back, its operations to provide learning opportunities as mandated by law to students is severely hampered.  It has said that it could run out of resources to properly educate children by March of 2018.  The Supreme Court did not comment on that argument in not approving the request for stay or expedite the case.


Neil S. Clark, ECOT Spokesman had this to say about today’s action: “Once the Court has an opportunity to consider the actual merits of the parties’ arguments, the Justices will readily conclude ODE is unlawfully clawing back funds.  But until the Court conducts its review, ECOT and its students and families will continue to be harmed and unfairly targeted by ODE.  Until then, ECOT and their students wait for their day in court.”


3rd Rail reached out to The Ohio Department of Education for comment but has not received a response at this time.


The Court, under the leadership of Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor is far behind in its docket, taking substantial additional time to schedule oral arguments and dispose cases.