Cyber education hurts efficiency and raises prices, declare Pa. schooling officers | Training

Williamsport, Pennsylvania – After many schools went virtual during the pandemic, education officials held a virtual meeting last week to reflect on financial and performance costs for students, school districts and taxpayers.

The Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) and the Keystone Center for Charter Change held the meeting on Friday to discuss issues that charter schools in particular are facing.

According to the PSBA, Pennsylvania’s school districts are well on their way to spending more than $ 23 billion in taxpayers on mandatory payments to cyber charter and other stationary schools, with that cost increasing significantly each year. However, one superintendent noted that most of the money does not come from the state.

“This has to be answered by lawmakers who take no action,” said Dr. Robert J. O’Donnell, Superintendent of the State College Area School District. “Became [his school district] mainly financed here with local money. “

School districts have paid more than 253 percent in the past 12 years, but charter enrollment has only increased 118 percent.

“The lack of understanding and the political allegations created such a stalemate,” said Dr. Jacquelyn M. Martin, headmistress for the Keystone Central School District in Clinton County.

More than 22,000 students across Pennsylvania have switched to cyber charter schools, a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the PSBA, this change cost local taxpayers an additional $ 335 million nationwide.

Related Reading: Local Government Week: Your Local School Authorities

School fees for charter schools are now identified as the greatest source of pressure on school district budgets. The policy behind charter schools and school boards was addressed during the meeting.

“You can’t underestimate the campaign contributions that go into this cause. It helps, ”said Lawrence Feinberg, director of the Keystone Center for Charter Change at the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.

Martin said the superintendents met with state lawmakers and sat down with local MP Stephanie Borowicz (R-Clinton). “The question is, are they on board? The problem is, there are a lot of differences in how the dialogue should be.”

“There’s a problem with the party line,” said O’Donnell. “There aren’t enough people on board. You [legislators] have their own challenges to move bills. I don’t think we’re on the same page. I hope the legislature continues the dialogue. “

“I’m not sure they can agree on a solution. They disagree, ”added Martin.

“I think if a student is working from home, we all learned from the pandemic that cyber schools did poorly,” said O’Donnell.

What about charter schools?

“Some charters are really not for profit public schools and do fine jobs,” said Lisa Longo, who previously served on the Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, Chester County school board. Longo also served as chairman of the board and oversaw multi-million dollar budgets in a very large school district. “These are mostly ‘stationary’ chargers that are in counties. Some counties have even launched their own chargers, especially online chargers now.”

Longo said one of the problems is that most online programs are run by for-profit education companies.

“They don’t meet basic Pennsylvania public education standards,” Longo said. “Because of the way special education funding works, charters will receive a higher amount to meet special educational needs and some have very high costs and some very low costs.”

It has been said that some charter schools accept lower-cost students with special educational needs while consuming the higher funding but not providing the required level of educational services. Longo said there were other issues regarding the level of teacher certifications. “It’s a really complicated subject.”

“In many school districts, the loss of students to charter schools has really destroyed their budgets,” Longo said of the current budgetary problems school districts are facing due to current politics and the lack of legislative action in Harrisburg. “This is especially true for school districts that do not receive fair funding.”

Like the school district superintendents, Longo appears to be urging state lawmakers to act.

“The best thing for kids is to set the same standards for each charter school and set up funding based on specific needs,” Longo added.

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