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Government/Politics

Ohio Supreme Court rules "final" means just that in ECOT case

ECOT.JPG
Karen Kasler
/
Statehouse News Bureau
The headquarters of ECOT, which was once the state's largest online charter school, were located on the south side of Columbus. The school shut down in 2018 because of questions about student enrollment and how often they were participating.

The decision in this case came down to the meaning of just that one word.

What was the state’s largest online charter school can’t challenge an order to pay back $60 million in overpayments for inflated student enrollment numbers.

That’s the decision from the Ohio Supreme Court, which ruled the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow must pay that bill. The state had been taking millions back from each monthly payment, but that stopped when ECOT closed in 2018.

The school has been fighting against repaying $60 million in overpayments based on students who were enrolled but weren’t participating in an order labeled final by the state board of education. The Ohio Supreme Court ruled that year against ECOT, saying the state could base funding on student participation, not on the number of students who were enrolled.

The court heard arguments in March on whether “final” means the board’s decision could be appealed to a court. Erik Clark represented the Ohio Department of Education, and said the law was clear.

“The General Assembly could have said ‘final and appealable,’ as it has on other occasions, and it did not do that," Clark argued.

Four justices agreed, led by Republican Justice Pat DeWine.

But Justice Sharon Kennedy and two of the court’s three Democrats wrote that “final” meant no further action could be taken by the board, but that there could be an appeal in the Franklin County Common Pleas Court. The third Democrat, Jennifer Brunner, didn’t hear the case.

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