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Education

Senate Bill Would Provide Quality Control for Cyber-Charter Schools

State Sen. Sean Wiley (D-Erie) has introduced Senate Bill 128, which would address the cost and performance of cyber-charter schools that aren’t related to school districts. In those schools, each is paid the same amount per student per district. That fluctuates depending on the district.

In one part of the state you’d be paying $6,000 per student, and in other parts of the state the payment is as high as $15,000 per student. That adds up to over $400 million a year.

“This is a complete draw on our public school system,” Wiley said.

Wiley also has concerns about how many of the cyber-charter schools are managed by for-profit entities.

“Our tax dollars are going towards marketing and lobbying and profit for shareholders," Wiley said. "And I don’t think that’s the most responsible place for our tax dollars to go when we’re looking to fund public education.”

Senate Bill 128 encourages competition and still retains choice.

“What it does is it creates bidding regions across the commonwealth throughout the intermediate unit system,” said Wiley. “In the cyber-charters, school districts and the IU’s can bid into these different bidding streams to become the primary regional cyber provider.”

In order to bid, the bidder must score at or above the state-wide performance average. That, Wiley said, will maintain quality in the schools.

If a student wants to attend a cyber-charter school that’s not the one provided by the school district or the more local school, they can do so but the student’s home district won’t pay the cost.

There are 16 licensed cyber-charter schools in Pennsylvania.

Wiley said this is a critical time, coming off millions of dollars of cuts to education over the past few years.

“We are in a really unique opportunity right now with the new administration coming in and putting such an emphasis on education and how we’re going to make it stronger,” Wiley said.