CF’s work in education focuses on promoting opportunity and improving children’s lives though incentive-based reforms. Instead of repeating the failed attempts to reform education through new rules or additional funding, such reforms use competition to improve education. Incentive-based reforms include providing choice within the public school system through charter schools and cyber schools, providing families with private school options through vouchers or tax credit-funded scholarships, and measuring and rewarding success in education for both schools and teachers. Only when parents have are able to choose the best school for their child, have an abundance of educational choices and ample information, and schools are forced to compete for students will we provide the best education to Pennsylvania’s youth.
The Matunis girls are just two of some 32,000 students statewide who are thriving at cyber schools. New legislation unveiled in Harrisburg, however, could do serious damage to cyber schools, hampering their ability to grow and function, and ultimately hurting the Matunis family and thousands like them.
Avi Stein, a resident of Camp Hill, overcame learning disabilities and the challenges of mentoring four younger siblings to be one of only 20 Central Pennsylvania students honored with a 2013 Best & Brightest award. With his unique gifts, he decided to attend Commonwealth Connections Academy (CCA), a cyber school with teaching centers across the state, including one in Harrisburg.
A member of the National Honor Society, Avi was also part of a team that designed an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) at the Pennsylvania Real World Design Competition. CCA won first place in the statewide competition—for the third straight year—and will be competing at the national level. Avi, who was chosen to give a TEDxYouth talk earlier this year, plans to attend the honors program at Susquehanna University, studying engineering and pre-medicine.
But due to bills pending in the state legislature, his four younger siblings may not benefit from the same opportunity for choice in public schooling that helped Avi achieve success.
One week ago, hundreds of cyber and charter school parents and students marched on Harrisburg in support of these popular alternatives to traditional public education. Supporters rallied at the capitol where Sen. Mike Folmer and Rep. Dan Truitt were among the speakers urging continued pressure on legislators with the goal of saving cyber and charter schools from punitive and arbitrary funding cuts
The proposed cuts would leave cyber schools struggling to compete with already better-funded brick and mortar schools. Cyber schools are a solution for the education needs of more than 32,000 kids like Avi and Stephen who will excel if given the chance.
Help us protect cyber schools as a viable option for families at CyberSchoolsSave.org, where you can send a message to your legislator supporting parental choice in public education.
Hannah Tuffy, 20, is one of the first cyber school students to be accepted at the prestigious U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The accomplished Scranton native credits her success to the flexible program she enjoyed at cyber school, which allowed her to excel academically while creating room for college classes, work and soccer. Her dream is to study biomechanical engineering and become an Apache pilot. Watch Hannah explain how cyber school prepared her for a successful military career.
Did you know that Pennsylvania’s cyber schools account for barely 1 percent of the state’s education budget? Despite this fact, legislation is in the works right now to slash what some call "excess funding" for cyber schools. Learn more at CyberSchoolsSave.org to find out how you can help us protect cyber school funding and keep kids like Hannah learning.
Hannah and Alyssa will tell you that the freedom to choose a school that works for them was essential to their academic success. They are just two of the 32,000 students across the nation enrolled in cyber schools. But you don’t have to take their word for it. Now, there is new research backing the academic benefits of school choice, specifically voucher programs.
A new report from the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice found that children and families who utilize school vouchers achieve better educational outcomes. According to "A Win-Win Solution: The Empirical Evidence on School Choice," 11 out of 12 "gold standard" studies showed that students excel with school choice vouchers, and none suffer when they chose educational options outside of the public school realm.
The report also found that 22 out of 23 studies on how school choice impacts public education showed that competition actually improved public school performance. No research concluded that school choice harms public schools.
The Friedman Foundation also reviewed empirical research related to the impact school choice has on taxpayers, diversity and civic values. Research consistently supports school choice in those areas.
Despite decades of carping by skeptics, vouchers and school choice in any form are a win-win for children—whether they attend private school or remain in a public school affected by school choice, said Robert Enlow, president and CEO of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. Competition works in all segments of our society, and it certainly helps children when they’re permitted to attend a school that fits their needs.
Pennsylvanians don't have to look far to see school choice at work. Last week, kids and parents celebrated the 12th anniversary of the Educational Improvement Tax Credit program. The program has allowed hundreds of thousands of children to escape failing schools while saving taxpayers millions of dollars.
In the past two years, five new states have adopted private school choice, and other states have expanded their school choice options, including the Pennsylvania's Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit—a lifeline for kids trapped in violent and failing schools.
posted by AMY CLINGENSMITH MONGIOVI | 10:44 AM | Comments
Stephen Frank was a cheerful young student with an enthusiasm for learning and an interest in football. Not long into his first year of middle school at his traditional public school, however, there was a change in his attitude. He became humorless, lethargic, and withdrawn.
After losing 40 pounds to an eating disorder, the problem became clear: bullying.
Stephen's mother, Monica, contacted the school's vice principal and guidance counselor but found no one willing or able to help protect her son. As Stephen's condition became more desperate, Monica decided to look beyond the traditional school setting to find a solution.
Luckily, Monica is a cyber school teacher and was confident in the academic rigor and supportive environment offered by these public schools. Stephen has now been attending 21st Century Cyber School for a year and the difference is stark. He is happy, full of life, and is on the distinguished honor roll every quarter. Most of all, he is safe.
Today is the seventh annual Day on the Hill for public charter and cyber charter schools sponsored by our friends at pacyberfamilies.org and pacharters.org. It's when families like the Franks—who now number in the thousands across Pennsylvania—come to Harrisburg to show how cyber schools have saved them.
In the end, Monica learned that parents have choices, even if traditional schools don't offer them. You can read the Franks' full story here. And if you couldn't make it to the state capitol today, visit CyberSchoolsSave.org. Sign up, send a letter to your legislators in support of cyber schools, and help maintain a safe alternative to traditional schools for kids like Stephen.
Recently, cyber schools have been attacked in the media and in the legislature as "too expensive" and "a drain on public education."
Nothing could be further from the truth. Our website CyberSchoolsSave.org is a new initiative that tells the true story of cyber schools' successes, the students that attend these schools of choice, and the fight against proposed abritrary funding cuts.
Cyber schools break the one-size-fits-all education model, offering education customized to meet the schedule of both fast-past learners and those with unique needs. And cyber schools consume just one percent of Pennsylvania’s education budget.
Who are the kids taking advantage of the opportunity for choice in public education? You probably know some. There are more than 32,000 cyber school students in Pennsylvania alone.
Take Alyssa for example. Suffering from a severe case of scoliosis, repeated surgeries and long recovery times shut her out of the traditional classroom and put her education in danger. But there was hope for Alyssa in the flexible class schedule and accelerated learning options of cyber school. This spring, Alyssa plans to graduate with a 4.0 GPA—at the age of 16!
And there’s Hannah, for whom a cyber school education led to graduating in the top 5 percent of her class and being admitted to the United States Military Academy at West Point. Watch the rest of her story at CyberSchoolsSave.org
We can’t save these schools from devastating funding cuts by ourselves—we need your help. Sign up and join hundreds of other concerned Pennsylvanians in telling our politicians to preserve the promise of cyber schools for 32,000 kids like Alyssa and Hannah.
Rep. Dan Truitt (R-Chester) joined us for a Google Hangout this afternoon to discuss charter and cyber charter schools in Pennsylvania. Rep. Truitt, a parent of cyber school students, and Matt Brouillette, whose children also attend cyber school, discuss how cyber schools are saving lives and saving Pennsylvania taxpayers.
To learn more about cyber schools and their successful students, visit CyberSchoolsSave.org, and join us in saving kids and saving taxpayers.
In second grade, Rachel Coleman vividly remembers classmates teasing her about her high test scores and ability to learn at a sixth-grade level. "You'll never get a husband!" girls taunted her. Over the following years, Rachel struggled with getting the right support as a gifted student, dreading how she would cope socially if she was promoted too fast. She found that support at Commonwealth Connections Academy (CCA), one of Pennsylvania's 16 public cyber charter schools.
At CCA, Rachel was able to graduate by age 15, and is now a junior psychology major at Mary Baldwin College in Virginia. "If anything, I got more personal attention in cyber school," she said at CCA's May 2 official opening of its second blended learning center in Pennsylvania. Rachel is not alone: More than 32,000 students are now enrolled in cyber schools, finding the flexible, personalized programs best fit their learning needs.
At the grand opening of CCA's Harrisburg blended learning center, students carried on with their day as dignitaries filed in and out. "Success coaches" guided students on their lesson plans. A math teacher tutored two students on polynomials, while others gathered round laptops as an English teacher led class. Cyber school students do most of their learning online, but blended learning centers allow for more face time and coaching—and a place to hang out.
"I wish this had been here when I was a student," Rachel said. Her older brother, also a CCA student, now spends much of his time at the blended learning center. Now reconciled to her extraordinary gifts, Rachel is thriving at college and wants to earn a doctorate in child psychology. For her, cyber school made the difference.
For more on how cyber schools help students like Rachel, see Cyber Schools Save.
More accountability is in the works for Pennsylvania universities. Earlier this week, the House State Government Committee considered legislation requiring Pennsylvania’s four state-related universities to comply with the Right-to-Know Law. HB 61 would fully subject Penn State University, the University of Pittsburgh, Temple University and Lincoln University to the open records law.
If the bill passes, these four universities would have to report much more than salaries for the 25 highest paid employees and a 990 tax form.
State-related universities receive substantial state funding but are not state-owned, as are the 14 schools in the State System of Higher Education. These 14 state schools, which received $412 million in taxpayer dollars this year, are already subject to the Right-to-Know Law.
State-related schools received $514 million in state taxpayer funds last year, yet they are fighting the push for transparency, arguing it would hurt morale among campus employees, hamper donor relations and compromise research data. Plus, they say, the majority of their funding comes from private sources. Taxpayers, however, deserve to see how every dollar is spent, especially the more than $500 million spent on state-related schools as tuition rises year-after-year.
Proponents for the law argue the four schools should play by the same rules has all state and local government agencies or become wholly private institutions. Currently, these schools receive between 5 percent and 15 percent of their annual budgets from the state.
Transparency to those footing the bill seems a small price to pay if Penn State, Pitt, Temple, and Lincoln University want to continue receiving millions in taxpayer. If these schools want to keep their spending habits to private we know of at least one Pennsylvania college that doesn’t take one penny of federal or state funding, and it’s doing just fine.
posted by AMY CLINGENSMITH MONGIOVI | 00:19 PM | Comments
A new national school standard known as "Common Core" is fast becoming known for superseding state and local authority over public education curricula. Using cutting edge data collection and analysis techniques, the program is designed to streamline K-12 education and raise our world standing in education.
But a comprehensive study by the American Principles Project warns of increased costs and privacy concerns as the main reasons Common Core may do more harm than good. Why did 45 states sign up for a program that requires them to, "relinquish their autonomy over public education?" Money, of course.
The federal government offered a $4 billion incentive in the form of "Race to the Top" education grants contingent on accepting Common Core standards. All but four states complied, ignoring unanswered questions of cost and quality in favor of a quick money grab.
A growing number of states have begun rethinking their commitment to the curriculum as full implementation approaches later this year, while a coalition of grassroots activists are pushing back here in Pennsylvania.
When it comes to improving public education, there's one proven solution: school choice. Giving parents the freedom to choose the best education for their child is fundamental to boosting student achievement.
That's why the worst feature of Common Core is its one-size-fits-all approach to standards—transferring authority over to bureaucrats and test design consultants rather than families.
With the House Education Committee set to consider new legislation on reducing cyber school funding, the discussion has turned again to how much cyber schools "actually" cost and whether they receive too much money.
Cyber schools are public charter schools in Pennsylvania, and their enrollment has grown rapidly over the last decade. There are 16 schools altogether, with four approved last year alone, and they now boast over 32,000 students. Still, in our $25 billion public education system, they account for only $319 million, or 1 percent of total spending. They also receive less per student than traditional public schools, about 81 percent on average.
But surely online, at-home learning costs less than a kid sitting in a regular classroom, right? Not necessarily.
Cyber schools must still pay for administration buildings and smaller classroom space in which teachers conduct lessons by video. Many also offer "blended learning" centers which allow students in-person class time within their online schedules, and extracurricular activities such as mobile science labs and performing arts centers. And all cyber schools have higher technology costs than regular public schools.
Running a cyber program isn't easy. Pittsburgh-based STREAM Academy, a program run by an intermediate unit, recently encountered higher-than-anticipated costs of running a cyber school, and opted to close the academy after failing to attract enough students.
Instructional, administrative, technology and extracurricular costs vary for cyber schools just as they do for their traditional counterparts. In Pennsylvania, cyber schools already effectively educate students for less, and both parents and students love them. Shaving off supposed excess funding in cyber schools would damage their ability to compete and offer families a quality educational alternative—and it's just such competition that keeps costs down and spending effective.
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The Commonwealth Foundation is Pennsylvania's free-market think tank. The Commonwealth Foundation crafts free-market policies, convinces Pennsylvanians of their benefits, and counters attacks on liberty.