Week in Review - 01/26/2018

Week in Review - 01/26/2018

EDUCATION

Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) shut down Friday, Jan. 19 after its sponsor, the Educational Service Center of Lake Erie West, decided to sever ties. On Wednesday, Judge Michael Holbrook of Franklin County Common Pleas Court appointed Myron Terlecky of Strip, Hoppers, Leithart, McGrath and Terlecky as the interim master, and Richard Kruse of Gryphon USA Ltd. as assistant interim master for compliance. ECOT leadership cast the closing as the result of vindictive state officials. The Ohio Department of Education (ODE), meanwhile, said it was focused on helping thousands of ECOT students find new schools.


The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) should've changed its payment claw-back schedule to allow the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) to finish out the school year and avoid displacing thousands of students, House Education Committee Chairman Rep. Andrew Brenner (R-Powell) said over the weekend. Then on Monday, he was joined by Reps. Andy Thompson (R-Marietta) and Robert Sprague (R-Findlay) in criticizing ODE's handling of the funding dispute, saying it caused unnecessary disruption for families and previewing legislation they might seek to prevent similar situations. Brenner said ODE should have paid more attention to the effects on students and teachers of its plans to recover overpayments from the online charter schools. A less aggressive payment schedule, perhaps lasting five years instead of two, could have prevented a mid-year shutdown of the school and helped the department ultimately collect more of the tens of millions of dollars it says ECOT owes in overpayments.


Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) said Tuesday it's appealing the decision by its sponsor to shut down the online charter school. Meanwhile, the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) defended itself against criticisms from the school and some legislators by noting a hearing officer just this week had once again backed the agency's findings that ECOT over-reported enrollment and owes the state money. Hearing officer Karl Schedler wrote in a report filed Monday that ECOT could not substantiate its full 14,000-plus reported enrollment for the 2016-2017 school year and owes the state $19.3 million. His recommendation that ODE seek recovery of that funding is to go before the State Board of Education in February.


EMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT

Ohio's unemployment rate fell slightly to 4.7 percent in December, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS), down from 4.8 percent in November. The state added 2,500 jobs over the month, going from a revised 5,539,700 in November to 5,542,200 in December 2017.


GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE

The House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee reported HB87 (Roegner) regarding community schools' public money.


REDISTRICTING/REAPPORTIONMENT

The Fair Districts=Fair Elections Coalition's congressional redistricting amendment would supersede the General Assembly's proposal if both are approved by voters under the current timeline being targeted by those involved in the process, according to Ann Henkener of the League of Women Voters of Ohio (LWVO). The Fair Districts group has collected 200,000 signatures and is on pace to collect the 305,591 signatures by the July 4, 2018 deadline to place the "Bipartisan Congressional Redistricting Reform Amendment" on November's general election ballot. Meanwhile, Sen. Matt Huffman (R-Lima) is aiming to move his proposal, SJR5, through the General Assembly in time to place the measure before voters on the primary ballot in May.

Congressional redistricting proposal SJR5's (Huffman) journey through the Senate slowed down a bit on Tuesday as Republicans and Democrats plan to work toward a bipartisan solution.


UNIONS

A 2020 general election vote to amend "right-to-work" provisions into the Ohio Constitution would resolve the issue for at least the next couple decades, two Republican lawmakers said Tuesday. Putting their six proposals up for a statewide vote during the next presidential election -- and not the 2018 midterm election -- is the best way to ensure high turnout and allow enough time to properly educate the public on the issues involved, Reps. John Becker (R-Cincinnati) and Craig Riedel (R-Defiance) told reporters at a Statehouse press conference.