Cyber Schools: Frequently Asked Questions

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Hearings are being held across the state on legislation for limits on spending by public cyber schools The proposed legislation is a response to criticism that cyber schools are not accountable, do not serve students well, and are a drain on school districts, and receive more money than they “need”.

Q: Are cyber schools unaccountable?

A: No. Cyber schools must meet every public school accountability standard—and more.

  • Accountability standards for both school districts and cyber schools: Students take Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA); Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) reports; Child Accounting System, Electronic Dropout and Graduate Report, Elementary Secondary Public School Enrollments, Financial Accounting Information, Limited English Proficiency-District Level, Limited English Proficiency-School Level, Secondary Course Enrollment, Social Security Reimbursement, Support Personnel, Financial Audit, State Audit, Federal Audit, Annual Financial Reports, and General Fund Budget PDE 2028.
  • Accountability standards just for cyber schools: Cyber Charter School Renewal (every 3-5 years), Annual Charter School Report, and Pennsylvania System of Cyber Charter Renewal.
  • The highest accountability standard for cyber schools is parental choice. Unlike district assigned schools, cyber schools only receive funding when parents choose to send their children there; and with cyber schools, parents have the choice not only between a local school and a cyber school, but among all cyber schools serving the state.

Q: Are cyber schools underperforming?

A: No. Cyber schools serve hard-to-educate student and have strong academic results.

  • Cyber schools serve a higher percentage of children from low-income families and a disproportionate number of students come from low-performing districts.
  • Pennsylvania’s cyber schools met 46 out of 50 academic AYP targets in the 2005-2006 school year.

Q: Don’t cyber schools get too much funding?

A: No. Cyber schools get far less than school districts and spend it more appropriately.

  • Cyber schools receive, on average, less than 73% of what school districts spend, per-pupil. They receive only about 80% of what school districts spend, per-pupil, on instruction and student services alone.
  • Cyber schools get no funding for buildings and many other costs, and are able to better target spending to instruction.
  • School districts receive reimbursements for what they spend on cyber students, effectively keeping almost 50% of their per-pupil funding for a child they no longer educate.
  • School districts spend 11 times the total cost of cyber schools on construction and debt alone.
  • School districts’ construction spending more than doubled from 1996-97 to 2006-06. Instructional spending increased only 51% in this time.
  • School districts with more revenue available spend ahigher percentage of their funding on construction and a lower percentage on instruction.

Q: Don’t cyber schools drive up property taxes?

A: No. Cyber schools save taxpayers money.

  • Cyber school funding represents less than 1% of all expenditures for public schools.
  • Spending only $8,300 per-pupil, vs. the $11,500 per-pupil average in school districts, cyber schools saved taxpayers more than $146 million in 2005-06.

Click here for a printable version of Cyber Schools: Frequently Asked Questions.

Click here for the 20-page report Edifice Complex: Where Has All the Money Gone?

For more information about Cyber Schools, visit or call 717.671.1901.

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The Commonwealth Foundation is an independent, non-profit public policy research and educational institute based in Harrisburg, PA.