Since the early 2000s cyber charter schools have been teaching students in Pennsylvania and the results are clear: they are an abject failure and in desperate need of reform.
Currently, there are 13 full-time cyber charters operating in Pennsylvania. Of those 13, not a single one has achieved a passing grade by the state. Graduation rates vary but are typically between 40 and 50 percent. Not only are they horribly ineffective, but they also don’t play by the same rules. Unlike public schools, cyber charters are not required to accept everyone and can decide to turn away potential students for whatever reason they choose, including disabilities.
While this is troubling, most aren’t aware that our local school districts are actually required by state law to cover the costs of cyber charters. Wondering why your property taxes are so high? Exhibit A is cyber charter funding. In the 2016-17 school year alone, Clarion County districts spent a combined $1.8 million on cyber charters. Make no mistake, this is an entitlement program which is robbing the taxpayers and taking away from the educational opportunities of our children.
Along with Education Committee Chair Rep. Sonney (R-Erie), state Rep. Donna Oberlander (R-Clarion) has co-sponsored House Bill 526, a bipartisan bill which would give public schools an opportunity to create their own cyber programs instead of covering the costs of these charter schools. Outside of the education funding increases since Governor Wolf became governor in 2015, there hasn’t been a piece of legislation which would do more to provide both property tax relief and better educational results for children than HB 526.
Unfortunately, the bill is currently stuck in committee. Rep. Oberlander won the Rural Educator of the Year award in 2015 and has been a vocal supporter of our public schools. I am hopeful she will use her 10 years of seniority and her influence as the House Policy Committee Chairperson to get this bill on the floor for a vote because our children, our schools, and our tax payers deserve better.
Clarion Area School District