Virtual charters threaten finances in Pennsylvania public schools
- School districts in and around Reading, PA, send between $163,615 and $4.5 million to virtual charter schools each year, based on the number of students that attend these alternative schools, and area superintendents are demanding change.
- The Reading Eagle reports Lower Marion School District in Chester County spends about $13,000 more per student than Conrad Weiser School District, even though students from both districts attend the same charter school, a key point of contention in the funding debate.
- Pennsylvania’s virtual charters are criticized for low student performance, though these schools’ leaders say that is a reflection of the types of students who turn to them — but even the heads of cyber schools say they would approve of a new formula based on actual spending, rather than one that takes into account the home district’s average per-student costs.
While the disputed costs of funding virtual charter schools have made waves on the local level in communities nationwide, the question of quality has been a greater focus at the national level. In June, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and the National Association of Charter School Authorizers called on charter school authorizers around the country to better hold cyber schools accountable for student performance. In October, the NAPCS released an updated model charter school law for state legislatures to consider, adding a range of recommendations for virtual schools.
New Hampshire has been a notable exception in the battle against virtual charters. That state’s model allows a self-paced, competency-based virtual school to operate and only be paid based on student progress. The Virtual Learning Academy Charter School gets consistently positive results with strong faculty-student relationships.
- Reading Eagle Cyber charter schools take a toll on Berks public schools
- Education Dive Charter school organizations take stand against virtual schools
- Education Dive What's New Hampshire's secret to making virtual schools work?
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