Pennsylvania cyber charter schools boomed in the pandemic. Why that’s crushing taxpayers

Hazelton Standard Speaker by Paul Muschick, February 4, 2022

The list of problems worsened by the pandemic is long. It swamped our antiquated and fraud-susceptible unemployment system. It burned out workers in already understaffed hospitals and nursing homes. It crushed vulnerable families. It broke weak links in supply chains. State officials rushed to correct many of those problems, throwing a lot of money and resources at them. So when will they recognize how badly the pandemic has exacerbated the problem of cybercharter school funding and do something about that? Enrollment at cybercharters in Pennsylvania skyrocketed during the pandemic. The bloated costs to school districts and taxpayers now is nearly $1 billion a year. Lawmakers are derelict in their duties if they can’t see how ridiculous the funding formula is for cybercharter schools. Under state law, they are paid at the same rate per student as traditional charter schools. But cybercharters don’t have the same buildings, supplies and infrastructure to pay for. They also can have fewer teachers, lowering personnel costs. In total, their costs are about 25% to 30% less than brick-and-mortar charters, according to various research. A study by Education Voters of Pennsylvania estimated cybercharters are overpaid $250 million annually. How can that possibly be justified? It’s such a waste of our limited education dollars. And it’s only getting worse.

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