Student Pleads to Preserve Cyber Schools

Applause to Brianna Shinn, a ninth-grade student who wrote a letter to the editor of the Bucks County Courier Times. Brianna is thriving at Pennsylvania Virtual Charter School and wants to tell Pennsylvanians why cyber charter schools need our support.

Did you know more than 32,000 students statewide also thrive at cyber schools? But recent proposed legislation could hurt schools like Brianna’s. Parents and students are choosing charter schools, cyber schools and other types of alternative education that best fit their needs. In addition, cyber schools frequently offer a safe haven for students escaping violent or failing schools.

In 2010-11, Pennsylvania public schools spent, on average, nearly $14,200 per student. Cyber schools spent 81 percent of that, or $11,500 per student. In other words, public schools retain funding for students they no longer have to educate. And statewide, cyber schools cost $319 million, or just 1 percent of Pennsylvania’s total K-12 education spending.

Recent proposed legislation would arbitrarily cut portions of cyber school funding, based on the misguided assumption that cyber schools and online learning must cost less than traditional public schools. Cyber schools have a different learning model, but they still offer extracurricular activities, maintain facilities such as blended learning centers, and have higher technology costs. And cyber schools already receive less than their traditional public school counterparts. Carving into their budgets this way would hamper their ability to offer high-quality education.

As Brianna wrote, “Parents and students should have the right to choose the learning program that’s best for them because everyone learns differently. If this type of schooling is proven to be helpful, why should it be taken away?” Good question, Brianna! Pennsylvania families are wondering the same thing.