Julie Carr Smyth

COLUMBUS: A state review has found that enrollment at Ohio’s largest online charter school is nearly 60 percent lower than originally reported, potentially jeopardizing about $60 million of the e-school’s state funding from last year.

The Ohio Department of Education told the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow about its findings Monday. It comes amid a legal battle over how head counts for the school and other online schools in Ohio are determined.

Known as ECOT, the school enrolls students at home in grades K-12. The enrollment ECOT claims to have — more than 15,000 — makes it the sixth-largest school district in the state, larger than Canton, Dayton or Youngstown.

About 500 school-age children who would otherwise enroll in a Summit County school district are registered at ECOT. ECOT receives about $5,900 per student, meaning nearly $3 million is taken from local school districts, which generate their funds from local tax levies and state aid.

In the five-county Akron-Canton area, the numbers would be about double that of Summit County.

If the state audit is accurate, ECOT may be claiming funding of $3 million in the Akron-Canton area for hundreds of unsubstantiated student time.

ECOT is managed by Altair Learning Management, a for-profit company whose executives are among the biggest Republican donors in the state.

The school tried to block regulators’ access to student log-in and log-out information, charging the education department imposed illegal retroactive rules on it for counting students.

The court ordered the Electronic Classroom to turn over a sample of student log sheets that the department used to come up with its total enrollment.

A school spokesman calls the process a sham.