Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni Introduces Strengthened E-School Reform Bill
SB 39 includes suggestions from educators and Republican lawmakers
Posted February 08, 2017 by Minority Caucus

COLUMBUS – Today, Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) introduced Senate Bill 39, a strengthened version of his online charter school (e-school) reform bill. The new provisions are based on input from Ohioans and legislators on both sides of the aisle. The bill is similar to Senator Schiavoni’s widely supported Senate Bill 298, which received several hearings – but no vote – in the 131st General Assembly.

“Quality education should not be a partisan issue. SB 39 includes suggestions from my Republican colleagues, as well as parents and educators,” said Senator Schiavoni. “Hopefully this year we can work together to make sure Ohio’s online students have a fair shot at graduation.”

One of the new provisions in Senate Bill 39 affirms that e-schools must “provide” rather than “offer” 920 hours of learning opportunities to students in each academic year. The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) argued in a lawsuit against the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) that the law does not require e-schools to actively educate students as long as class materials are made available online. Last year, an audit determined that ECOT owed taxpayers $60 million for exaggerating student attendance.

“The governor’s budget plan leaves many districts without proper funding. But there’s one e-school that currently owes Ohio $60 million for one year of overpayments. Imagine what students and teachers at other schools could do with that money,” said Senator Schiavoni. “As Ohio prepares for a painfully tight budget, it's no longer acceptable for e-schools to simply place classes online and expect funding from the state.”

The original bill included the following requirements:

  • Requires e-schools to keep an accurate record of the number of hours each individual student actively participates in coursework each day. 
    • The information must be reported to the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) on a monthly basis and be made available on the Department’s website. 
  • If a student fails to log in for 10 consecutive days, the e-school must notify ODE, the student’s parent/guardian, and the district of residence.
  • Requires student participation logs to be checked for accuracy on a monthly basis by a qualified teacher. (A qualified teacher will licensed by ODE and therefore subject to the Licensure Code of Professional Conduct for Ohio Educators.) 
  • Increases transparency and accountability by requiring that e-school governing board meetings be live-streamed over the internet so parents and the public can watch the meetings. 
    • There must be proper advance notice of each meeting in every community newspaper from which the e-schools enroll students.
  • Specifies that if a student is enrolled in an e-school for more than 90 days and then transfers back to a traditional public school before spring assessment tests, the test results must be reflected on the report card for the e-school and not the public school.
  • Requires that, for every advertisement used by an e-school (paid for by public funds), the e-school must include a disclaimer showing their most recent state report card grades. 

Some of the new provisions include:

  • Adds a provision specifying that when the Auditor issues a Finding for Recovery from an audit of a community school, that money is returned to the school district.
  • Removes the provision that would limit blended learning schools to schools sponsored by exemplary rated sponsors only.
  • Exempts district sponsored e-schools from the requirements of the bill.
  • Removes the provision that would eliminate career tech funding for e-schools.  

Senate Bill 298 received four hearings in the Senate Finance Committee during the 131st General Assembly. It did not receive a committee vote.

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