Letter on 530 Sent to Newspapers

For years, Pennsylvania’s Cyber Charter Schools have been roundly criticized for underperforming on the state’s standardized tests (PSSA’s).  This is in part because Cyber Charter Schools attract many students from struggling school districts that have failed to give these students a proper education. (continued)

So, this month, on their website, the PA Department of Education released the state wide SAT scores for 653 Pennsylvania High Schools / Charter High Schools.  Of the 189 charter schools in the state, three of the top six charter schools were Cyber Charter Schools.  The top charter school was 21st Century Cyber Charter School in 63rd place with the next charter school placing at number 116!  This happened even though there are only 14 Cyber Charter Schools among the 189 state wide PA Charter Schools.

The most amazing part of this report is that all top eight charter schools accomplished their scores with 27% less money than their traditional counterparts!

So, what do Cyber Charter Schools get as a reward?

Currently in Harrisburg, the PA House of Representatives is considering a bill, sponsored by State Representative, Mike Reese, (HB 530) that, if passed by the Senate and signed by the governor, would cut funding for Pennsylvania Cyber Charter Schools by more than 5% across the board and by as much as 8% for students from Philadelphia and as much as 15% from students from Chester, PA.

The biggest problem with this bill is that it does not begin to address the other inequities in the cyber charter school funding formula that already punish Cyber Charter Schools.  All charter schools begin with only 75 cents on the dollar from the home sending school district.  Along with this, charter schools are held to higher standards than their traditional counterparts and Cyber Charter Schools are graded with more stringent requirements than their equal brick and mortar counterparts.

The PA Association of School Business Officials, (PASBO.org) is the prime mover of this bill and has only one agenda.  All the members of the PASBO Board of Directors are top administrators in local PA School Districts.  They see students leaving their districts and taking the tax dollars with them to the only charter schools that reach state wide – Cyber Charter Schools.  PASBO must do whatever it can to stop Cyber Charter Schools from being successful.  Forget the needs of the students.  It is the needs of the budget that are paramount.

Unfortunately, money talks and the little guy often gets crushed.  Cyber Schools were cut before because they were not making the grade.  Now that they are successful, they most certainly must be cut.  The education monopoly establishment must never allow a better innovative idea catch hold.  After all, it might force everyone else to rethink how they are delivering education.

Cyber Charter Schools are utilizing tomorrow’s technology:  iPads, Video Conferencing, multiple screens, touch screens, Smart Boards, Interactive technology, educational gaming, avatars, MOODLE open source learning environments.  Cyber Charter Schools can create virtual classrooms that pull students together from across the state and from across cultural divides.  Cyber Charter Schools provide a state of the art computer, a high speed Internet line and a full educational experience to all their students.  A Cyber Charter School can provide a high school student any course he or she would ever want to take in a high school setting – including AP and Honors courses and increasingly, University level courses.

This is why the education establishment must at all costs cut the funding to these already underfunded schools.  The establishment  fears that the charter school movement, if left unfettered, will, in a couple of generations, take over as it already has in Washington, D.C. where now over 60% of the nation’s capitol’s students attend a charter school.

If this bill passes, who are the winners?  The well paid administrators who won’t have to give up their perks and benefits.  Who will lose?  The thousands of students that are stuck in schools from which they cannot escape.  Reported in ”Chalk and Talk” – written by Philadelphia public school teachers, in the Philadelphia Schools: 2005-2010 (five years), there were 19,752 assaults.  During that same time there were 0 assaults in all the Cyber Charter Schools combined.  Safe education with high SAT scores.  Hard combo to beat.