- Associated Press - Saturday, May 6, 2017

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - A mysterious provision added to the state budget bill as passed by the Ohio House stands to protect the sponsors of certain online charter schools.

The amendment’s origin is a mystery to the amendment’s supposed author, to a leading charter school-sponsoring think tank and to the state’s largest e-school, The Columbus Dispatch reported (https://bit.ly/2qwtoDm).

The bill is now in the hands of the Ohio Senate, where senators are considering removing it.

“If it indeed does create some kind of staggering loophole, I think we need to deal with it,” said state Sen. Peggy Lehner, a Kettering Republican.

The provision would allow online charter schools to change sponsors without their poor academic performance driving down the performance ratings of their sponsors. Under the amendment, past academic scores wouldn’t negatively impact the new sponsor’s ability to continue overseeing other charters.

Under current law, sponsors rated “ineffective” for three consecutive years, or rated “poor,” lose their ability to sponsor charter schools.

The amendment appeared aimed at benefiting e-schools, including the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, Ohio’s largest. A spokesman said the school had nothing to do with it.

“It’s not ECOT’s amendment, and it doesn’t benefit ECOT,” said spokesman Neil Clark. He said the school’s grades are too low to allow it to transfer to a new sponsor.

The language was included in an amendment offered by state Rep. Keith Faber, a Celina Republican, who also claimed ignorance.

“It wasn’t in anything we submitted to have drafted,” he said. “I don’t know where it came from.”

Faber said the language was added by the Ohio Legislative Service Commission, which is in charge of bill drafting, and that he had not received an explanation as to why.

Chad Aldis, of the charter school-sponsored Fordham Institute, said he suspects it was added by mistake.

He said the change “basically makes academic accountability for any school that transfers under this provision nonexistent.”

“Given the House’s strong support for charter school accountability, I can’t believe this would have been intentional,” he said.

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