Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Call For Moratorium on New Cyber Charter Schools in PA

Some Pennsylvania groups say cyber charter schools in the state aren't making the grade, and they're urging state education officials to impose a moratorium on any new ones. Rhonda Brownstein, the executive director of the Education Law Center, says only one of the cyber charters operating in Pennsylvania in 2011 made adequate yearly progress.

"And, a Stanford University study found that both in reading and math all eight of the cyber charters that were operating at the time, a couple of years ago, performed significantly worse than public schools."

TaiMarie Adams, Co-Director of Education Policy at Public Citizens for Children and Youth, says cyber charter schools also draw millions from an already-shallow pool of education funding in Pennsylvania.

"Our traditional brick-and-mortar charters and public schools don't have the money that they need. There's been drastic education cuts. A lot of our schools have been cut to the bone."

Susan Gobreski, executive director of Education Voters of PA, says cyber charters are taking advantage of a loophole in state law, which allows them to potentially reap huge profits since they don't have to pay teachers for face-to-face interactions with students as traditional schools do.

"Our goal as a state needs to be the fair distribution of resources so that we're putting a focus on how each child has a quality opportunity to learn, not distributing resources in ways that favor some adults."

The state oversees the operations of 16 cyber charter schools currently, with eight applications pending before the department to open even more cyber charter schools for the 2013-2014 school year.

Cyber charter school proponents in Pennsylvania say they offer an education based on choice, which can better individualize learning for students than brick-and-mortar schools can. Pennsylvania law requires the state education department to do annual reviews on cyber charters and revoke the charters of those schools not meeting student performance mandated by state law.

Tom Joseph

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