Brad and Emily Moore live in Erie County. They chose to send their oldest daughter to Commonwealth Cyber Charter Academy (CCA). But now her education and the education of over 35,000 other students is in jeopardy after Rep. Curt Sonney introduced an extreme bill to end cyber charters and restrict cyber education to conventional district schools.
Rep. Sonney explained, “It is my intention that this legislation will eliminate the tension between school districts and cyber charter schools.”
In one way it does—by completely eliminating one form of competition for conventional district schools. And for kids in 87% of Pa. school districts, cyber schools are the only public schooling alternative to district schools.
The stated impetus behind Rep. Sonney’s bill and other so-called reforms proposed by Governor Wolf is a lack of accountability. It’s all very ironic considering public charter schools (cyber and brick and mortar) have the ultimate form of accountability—parental choice. That is, if parents aren’t satisfied, they can enroll their child somewhere else.
For the Moore family, a cyber education is exactly what their daughter needs to thrive. Brad explains:
Our oldest daughter, Mackenzie, has been a student at Commonwealth Cyber Charter Academy (CCA) for the past 3 years. We have nothing but great things to say about her and our experience. The instructional time is incredibly well done and focused because the teachers don’t have the distractions that many typical bricks and mortar schools have. The teachers really seem to enjoy their jobs. At the moment, our daughter has straight A’s while still being able to pursue her dreams in ballet. This wasn’t the original reason she started at CCA, but the flexibility the education provides her and our family has been invaluable.
A flexible schedule is key. Significant disabilities, chronic conditions like Alyssa Weaver experienced, teen pregnancy, and bullying can make conventional schools unbearable. But in cyber charter schools, these kids can move at their own pace.
Now back to Mackenzie’s dad:
She thoroughly enjoys the other robust elective class options that are offered. For example, last year she took a photography class and has been hooked ever since. There could not have been a better option for us at this point in her life and we strongly feel every family should have the right to make education decisions for their children.”
Before lawmakers do something drastic, like close the state’s 15 cyber schools or cripple existing charter schools, we need to ask: What problem are we trying to solve? If there truly is a lack of transparency or accountability, new standards should be considered for ALL public schools. House Bill 355 and Senate Bill 590 are a good start down that road. But taking away Mackenzie’s school solves nothing.