Virtual Reality: Cyber Charter Schools And The Need For Reform

Pennsylvania Bar Association Quarterly by Susan DeJarnatt, January 2021 (Last revised March 2, 2021)

Temple University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2021-06
Abstract: Pennsylvania needs to reform its system for funding cyber charter schools. The fourteen cyber charters draw students and tuition dollars from nearly every public school district across the state, but those districts have no say in authorizing or overseeing cyber charters. Though the cybers are a financial drain on the districts, they are money makers for their operators due to weaknesses in the Charter School Law. First, the Charter School Law (CSL) directs the districts to remit the exact same per pupil funding to a cyber charter as they do to a bricks and mortar charter, even though the costs of running a cyber are much lower. Second, the per pupil payment a district must provide to the charter is based on the per pupil spending of that sending district, not on the charter’s cost to educate the student. Finally, cybers, like all charters, receive much higher payments for students with special education needs, but cybers, like all charters, have no obligation to spend that extra money on special education. The CLS should be revised to account for the true costs of operating cyber charter schools and to provide for a voice for districts in the oversight and accountability of these programs.