School choice is being threatened again and this time the target is over 40,000 Pennsylvanian children. The Pennsylvania State Senate has introduced a bill, S.B. 1085, that would cut 5% of the funding for public cyber charter schools and reassign it to traditional brick-and-morter public schools.
Cyber charter schools in Pennsylvania have revolutionized the education system in Pennsylvania. Taking money from schools where students attend and arbitrarily giving it to public schools where they do not makes little sense. As a result, many families are asking for the Pennsylvania State Senators to hold off on a vote for reallocating the funding until a study on how money is spent in public cyber schools is done.
PA Families for Public Cyber Charter Schools has this to say:
“Haste makes waste: This study will help inform everyone involved in the debate, including parents. It would be irresponsible to take preliminary action before benefitting from the findings of the proposed study.”
The cyber schools amount to roughly 1% of the education budget for Pennsylvania. When a student decides to go to a cyber charter school, those students receive only 81% of the funding that they were once getting in a public school setting. Public schools are given funding preferences, despite parental choice and lack of evidence indicating money for cyber charter schools is mispent. It has been estimated that the 5% reduction would be equal to one- third of cyber teachers' salaries. The cut limits the accessibility of cyber charter schools for families across the state and puts currently enrolled students at risk.
The bill does have some positives. It fixes a “pension double dip” for cyber schools. The bill also institutes measures of accountability and oversight that make cyber schools more transparent fiscally. It also gives universities more leeway in authorizing new charter schools, weakening school districts authority to flatten their competition, creating more equality.