COLUMBUS — One of the nation's largest online charter schools has been ordered to stop using taxpayer dollars on television ads attacking a state effort to claw back $60 million in funding.
The Columbus Dispatch reports Ohio Auditor Dave Yost sent a letter to the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow on Friday, saying spending on the commercials is "impermissible."
ECOT spokesman Neil Clark confirmed the school was using state funds to pay for the ads. Clark says ECOT has a right to try to convince the Ohio Department of Education and lawmakers to abandon the repayment effort. School officials have said being forced to pay back the funds could be crippling for the cyber school, which has 15,000 students.
The school has been running commercials for at least a year. In one of the latest, a former ECOT student says, “The Ohio Department of Education wants to end school choice and stop parents from deciding what's best for their children. That's why I and the over 36,000 students and alumni of ECOT are hoping our elected leaders fix what's broken and save our school.”
The education department says the e-school didn't have documentation of student logins to justify more than half of the nearly $109 million it got for the 2015-16 school year and should return that portion.
ECOT has argued the department improperly and retroactively changed attendance-tracking standards and that its original agreement with the state allowed logging attendance differently.
The school plans to lay off 350 employees next month including teachers, administrators and support staff.
Clark declined to say how much the school has spent on the ads, but said stopping the commercials would not save any jobs.