Indiana, PA - Indiana County

VICKI SMITH: Cyber school reform could save millions

on March 15, 2013 11:00 AM

As school districts prepare their budgets for 2013-2014, tuition payments to cyber charter schools continue to divert public funds from our schools.

The tuition rate for cyber charter schools is based only on school district costs. Cyber schools are paid far in excess of their actual costs.

As the Legislature considers changes to the funding formula, the cyber schools are mounting a campaign to keep the current formula.

Pennsylvania Families for Public Cyber Schools sent out an “alert” to members asking them to attend the House Education Committee hearing in Harrisburg on House Bill 618 by Rep. Joe Emrick, R-Northampton, and House Bill 759 by Rep. Mike Reese, R-Fayette/Westmoreland. The alert included the following statement:

These bills threaten the very existence of our schools! The funding cuts proposed in these bills will reduce the funding to a level that our schools will be forced to close! Once again our schools are being used as scapegoats for districts who do not manage their budgets.

I take offense to the statements made by Pennsylvania Families for Public Cyber Schools. As president of the Homer-Center school board and chairman of the Indiana County Technology Center board, I can assure you that our budgets are managed very conservatively and carefully. There is no wasteful spending. We provide quality education, by professional teachers, in safe and secure schools.

What does the cyber school provide — a computer, an Internet connection and an online teacher. Maybe some field trips.

This is the dollar amount each school in Indiana County pays to cyber schools for every child that leaves our brick-and-mortar schools:

United, $10,240.27; Blairs- ville-Saltsburg, $10,325.37; Marion Center Area, $10,545.91; Homer-Center, $11,085.58; Purchase Line, $11,201.64; and Indiana Area, $13,104.52.

Private “educational companies” are contracted by public cyber schools to run their programs. They make millions of dollars in profit every year.

Changes to the cyber funding formula are overdue; our districts and taxpayers can’t wait for relief any longer. Please contact your state representative and state senator and ask them to support legislation to reform the cyber school funding formula.

Vicki Smith

president, Homer-Center school board

chairman, ICTC board of directors

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