Districts Save What Cybers Spend

How much of Pennsylvania’s education spending goes to public cyber schools? Just 1 percent, or $319 million. Keep this in mind when reading about new data on school district reserve funds.

A common complaint we hear about public cyber and charter schools is that they cost school districts too much money. Indeed, along with pension payments and lack of public support for tax increases, the “cost” of charter school students is one of the main budget problems cited by some school districts. Of course this ignores the fact that public cyber schools receive less funding than traditional schools—only 80 percent funding per student. The school districts keep the extra 20 percent without having to educate a child.

But did you know that Pennsylvania’s school districts also maintain generous reserve funds? These “rainy day” funds are supposed to fill budget gaps and compensate for tax revenue shortfalls. Given recent complaints of education funding cuts, these funds must surely be running dry, right? Not quite.

Updated Department of Education data shows that districts across the state hold more than $3.8 billion in reserve fund balances. That’s nearly a $300 million increase from last year.

That number sounds familiar, doesn’t it? $300 million is just about the yearly cost of public cyber schools for the entire state of Pennsylvania, and schools districts sock that amount away in just one year.

For even more perspective, the current $3.8 billion in school district reserves by themselves would pay for all the state’s cyber schools for more than a decade.

The next time you hear complaints about cyber schools taking funds from school districts, remember that districts are saving every year what cyber schools spend.

Help us defend cyber schools from funding cuts at www.CyberSchoolsSave.org and protect choice in public education for more than 32,000 Pennsylvania students.