New Bills Constitute Attack on Cyber Schools

JANUARY 25, 2013 | by PRIYA ABRAHAM

Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) and a trio of legislators today unveiled a package of bills aimed at reducing cyber school growth and limiting the popular schools' funding. Cyber schools, which opened just 10 years ago, have seen skyrocketing growth as families flock to them, and now boast more than 32,000 students and 16 schools across Pennsylvania.

Take Caela Collins of Lake Ariel, who was born premature with underdeveloped lungs. She was so ill between kindergarten and 6th grade, she could no longer risk being exposed to germs at a regular school. Arbitrarily limiting cyber school growth when parental demand is so high will only hurt Pennsylvania families like the Collins'.

Because the proposed changes are aimed almost completely at reducing cyber school funding, they neither preserve the educational choice parents want nor create accountability measures. Instead, they will squeeze cyber schools' ability to grow and function and treat students who choose public cyber schools as less deserving of support as those in district-run schools. 

The legislation will appease certain special interest groups and public school union bosses who have falsely complained that cyber schools "drain" funding from traditional public schools.

The most damaging provision is one that would allowing school districts with in-house cyber programs to deduct 50 percent of that cost from the reimbursement they owe cyber schools. This measure seems solely directed at shrinking cyber school resources so they're unable to compete with school districts.

The ultimate result will be fewer options for parents. To paraphrase Henry Ford, it essentially says, "You can have any cyber school option you want, as long as it's the school district's."

Rather than punitive legislation targetting cyber schools, lawmakers should embrace charter school reform that provides fairness (meaning all students receive equal funding), increases accountability, and expands the choices parents are demanding.  For more on cyber schools, check out The Learning Revolution.



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