Why criticism of cyber charter schools is unfounded – Morning call

A morning call led a column earlier this year entitled “Pennsylvania’s cyber charter schools have increased in the pandemic. Why is it a disgrace to taxpayers.The column criticized cyber charter schools for overpayments from taxpayers and inadequate performance for their students.

According to the column, cyber charter schools “do not have the same buildings, materials and infrastructure to pay for.” As a person who started and now runs the Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School, I see the same costs for “infrastructure”.

In addition to our own construction costs, we provide each student with a modern computer, high-speed Internet and all the technology to back it up. If you add the cost of the test site (excluding salaries), the average cost of infrastructure per student at PA Leadership Charter School is $ 2,951, while the average cost of infrastructure per student in 11 school districts in Lehigh County is $ 2,784 ( transport and vehicles).

The Center for the Transformation of Public Education found the same results in a study of charter online schools, stating: “Costs in most categories were fairly the same in online and traditional schools. Three exceptions include technology costs that are higher in online schools, and equipment and transportation costs that are higher in traditional schools.

Four of Pennsylvania’s 14 cyber charter schools were established and run by local school districts. These students from the district do not take money. Any district can create its own cyber charter school (e.g., the West Chester Area School District through its 21st Century Cyber ​​Charter School).

But most school districts simply create individual cybercourses for their students.

Independent cyber charter schools in Pennsylvania welcome virtual programs because they are focused on the needs of students. When the pandemic hit, all 14 cyber charter school principals wrote an open letter to all 500 Pennsylvania school districts, offering our expertise to help launch or run virtual programs that school districts were forced to create overnight.

The result was thousands of contacts between cyber- and non-cyber-teachers.

The column also criticized “the return on taxpayer investment,” citing the fact that “all 14 cyber charters scored below the state average for English language and mathematics estimates in 2018-19.” The solution proposed in the column? Reduce funding for cyber charter schools.

The column did not have 52% of all Pennsylvania public schools scored below the state average. It is also not reported that the average student entering a cyber charter school lags behind by 1.5 years. For these students, poor grades in English and math are a failure of their home school district rather than a cyber charter school.

However, when SAT / ACT scores are measured, Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School has the highest scores of all 180 Pennsylvania charter schools and is in the top 5% of all Pennsylvania high schools. So how can funding cuts be a solution if so many children left in school districts really need it, increased personal attention to bring them back to a level of equality with their peers?

The reason for the attack on cyber charter schools is that they are the only charter schools open to all 1.7 million students in the state. They are effective and provide a safe, supportive and challenging education.

Cyber ​​charter schools affect on average less than 3% of a home school budget. The real cost factors are the increase in teachers’ salaries – by an average of 2% per year – and the sharp increase in spending on the pension system of public school staff.

Every year school districts now pay more than 35% of the teacher’s salary is only to replenish the pension systemand this cost has no end.

I understand why the monopolistic school system doesn’t like school choices. I understand why the teachers ’union does not like a statutory school system that has no incentives for unions. I understand why the regular school system is struggling to create – with a small portion of its budget – a successful cyber component for its students.

It’s a competition between those who believe in choices for all Pennsylvania students and those who don’t. I am committed to finding ways for charter schools and traditional schools to work together. I believe this would ultimately be best for all Pennsylvania students.

Jim Hanak is the executive director of the Public Cyber ​​Charter School Association and also the CEO of the Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School.

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