Letter to the House Education Committee

Dear Representative,

This Tuesday, April 18, 2017, the House Education Committee will be voting on House Bill 97, which contains reform to the Charter School Law. The Public Cyber Charter School Association (PCCSA) respectfully requests that you oppose this bill at this time, as it contains cuts that have yet to be studied and substantiated. PCCSA represents eight of the fourteen cyber charter schools in the state, and works collectively as a group to inform policy and optimize the online learning environment for students.

As a reintroduction of House Bill 530, you may be under the impression that the cyber charter community is supportive of this bill. We want to assure you that, while we support many of the measures contained in the bill related to transparency and accountability, we absolutely cannot support what we have been told could be upwards of a $27 million cut to our cyber charter funding.

The cuts in this bill to our school’s budget could be as high as 18%. This is patently unfair, especially in light of the current effort to increase funding for every other K-12 school throughout the Commonwealth.

It is important for you to be reminded that our schools currently operate on an average of 80% of the budget of the student’s home school district, as the home districts deduct an average of 20% of the tuition rate. Pennsylvania’s cyber charter schools average about $9,900 per regular education student while the sending districts would be spending an average of $12,375 on that same student.

Opponents of public cyber charter schools often suggest that cyber charter schools don’t need the money that a traditional brick and mortar school needs because they do not have buildings. This is a fallacious argument because cyber charter schools do have buildings that they own or lease for administrative purposes. It is also false because cyber charter schools have similar but different costs. Cyber schools are required by law to provide a state of the art computer/printer to their students, a high-speed Internet line and the technology to back it up. These are only a few of the costs that Cyber Schools incur that are not incurred by school districts.

Some of the other typical expenses are personnel & teachers, accounting, legal, insurance, school supplies and related services for special education that are outsourced. Cyber schools are also required to conduct standardized testing, but due to a lack of brick and mortar location, they are must go to extraordinary lengths to ensure that testing sites and proctors are available to their students.

Cyber school opponents point to low test scores and say our schools are substandard.   What they won’t tell you is that cyber schools often attract students, whose home districts have not met the student’s needs. These lower test scores are often a reflection of multiple years of failure before a student moves to a cyber school where much work is required, and possibly a few years, before the student is back on track and performing at their grade-level.

Public cyber charter schools provide an environment that is safe and manageable for students who have faced violence or bullying in their traditional schools. Through cyber instruction, their education can be their main priority, free from distractions.

Pennsylvania’s public cyber charter schools can be life changing for our children. It would be a tragedy to substantially diminish the education for 34,000 Pennsylvania’s youth who have discovered a learning platform that meets their needs. Therefore, we respectfully ask that you support those 34,000 students currently enrolled in a cyber charter school and vote against any cuts that specifically target their choice in education.

Sincerely,

  • Don Asplen, CEO Achievement House Charter School
  • Jim Hanak, CEO PA Leadership Charter School
  • John Chandler, CEO PA Virtual Charter School
  • Mike Conti, CEO Agora Charter School
  • Malynda Maurer, Central PA Digital Learning Foundation
  • Patti Rossetti, CEO Pennsylvania Distance Learning Charter

Names of Cyber Charter CEO’s