ELC Continues to Call for Moratorium on New Cyber Charter Schools

excerpt from Education Law Center of Pennsylvania statementon cyber charter schools, 11/14/13, pp. 3-4 (see source for footnotes)

…In our testimony last year, we gave four reasons why expanding cyber charter schools was an inefficient and unaccountable use of tax dollars. A year later all four of those reasons are even more compelling. First, we explained that it was wasteful to continue to allow cyber charter expansion in the face of evidence of the high turnover rate of students who leave their public schools to enter a cyber charter school, only to return a year later, having lost a year of academic growth. The importance of school stability has been well documented. Unfortunately, self-reported data found in charter school annual reports provide conclusive evidence that students in cyber charters schools withdraw from those schools at much higher rates than their peers in brick and mortar schools. During the 2011-2012 school year, 27% of the students in the five cyber charter for which data is available withdrew from those schools before the end of the school year. That number is striking all on its own, but to put that into perspective, we compared the rates for these five cyber charters to the 87 brick and mortar charter school in Pennsylvania that reported this data for the 2011-12 school year. The cyber charter withdrawal rate of 27% is three times the rate of 9% in brick and mortar charter schools.5

It is true that increasing numbers of parents, lured by ubiquitous advertisements making false promises, keep gambling on cyber charters. But as the data shows, after experiencing the poor quality of instruction, they flee at record numbers. Unfortunately, for many it is not before their students lose a year of education and taxpayers foot the bill for remediation back in traditional public schools.

Second, we explained that it was irresponsible and inefficient to expand cyber schools when there has been widespread acknowledgement that the current cyber charter funding formula is fundamentally flawed.6

Today that view is even more broadly accepted, yet we are still operating under the same funding formula. In addition, the financial impact on school districts is even more widespread. The School District of Philadelphia had over a $300 million budget deficit, much of which can be attributed to increasing charter school payments, including cyber charter schools. Dozens of school districts in both rural and suburban communities are in similar financial distress. Projections are for this financial crisis to continue into the foreseeable future. Adding additional inefficient cyber charters at this time, would further harm traditional public schools, and thus violate the state constitutional mandate to maintain and support the thorough and efficient system of public education.

Third, we explained that it was inefficient and wrong for taxpayers to continue to pay for a system of cyber charter schools which permits profiteering and personal gain on the backs of Pennsylvania taxpayers.7 Since then our state has seen major indictments of the leadership of both our two largest cyber charter operators, including the founder of the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School and the founder and former head of the Agora Cyber Charter.8

As taxpayers continue to dig out of the massive waste and on-going legal fees still being paid with public funds, it is all too vividly clear that, one year later, these problems have not been resolved. Allowing six more schools to enter this educational climate will only exacerbate the problem. …

read the full report, with charts and footnotes, at Education Law Center of Pennsylvania statement on cyber charter schools

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