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Politics & Government

Auditor Wagner Blasts Cyber Charter Funding Formula

With just days to go before leaving office, Pennsylvania Auditor General Jack Wagner is taking one last swipe at the way school districts pay cyber charter schools to educate their students.

Using an audit of the state’s largest cyber charter school, PA Cyber, Wagner chastised the PA Secretary of Education and the state legislature for not limiting the amount of money that must be sent to the charter school.

“That is reflected in their [PA Cyber’s] reserve funds of over $13 million… and the fact that they utilize public dollars for advertising purposes to attract students to their schools,” said Wagner.

The numbers come from the Beaver County-based school’s 2009-2010 budget.  Wagner said PA Cyber Charter’s budget surplus is larger than any other charter school in the state.

“I believe in alternatives in education… I simply do not want to see tax payers spending money for reserve funds and for public advertising purposes,” said Wagner.

Earlier this year the Auditor General issued a report showing Pennsylvania could save more than $350 million a year and still fully cover the costs of a cyber education.

Wagner said the national average for educating a student in a cyber charter school comes in at $6,600 but payments from districts in PA range from a low of $6,414 in the Altoona Area School District to $17,755 from the Lower Merion School District.

PA Cyber pulls students from 484 of the 501 school districts in the state according to Wagner, making it a statewide problem.  PA Cyber did not return calls for comment.

Wagner said there has been a lack of movement to change the law partially due to a strong lobbying effort, and partially due to a lack of leadership from the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Its in the best interest of the tax payers of Pennsylvania for the law to change, said Wagner.  “The longer it is not corrected, the more public tax payer dollars that are lost.”