Since their inception in 2002, cyber public charter schools have been a thorn in the side of school districts and traditional public educational institutions across the state.
Suffice it to say, traditional public schools don’t like competition, and many proponents of the status quo abhor the idea that parents and families have the right to choose the public school that best serves their child. .
Unfortunately, the divide between traditional public schools and cyber-public charter schools continues to grow and has only accelerated over the past decade. Instead of working together to do what’s right for students, school districts and their advocates are doing everything they can to tear down public school choice and mislead and misinform the public about the important role schools have in cyber charter have in our education system – school choice has overwhelming support in Pennsylvania and across the country.
Through the use of hand-picked data and inaccurate information, public school choice advocates are adept at pointing fingers and criticizing the competition, when in reality, they have to own up to their shortcomings and adapt to the needs and demands of students and families. .
Let’s be honest: School districts only raise concerns when students leave to attend a public charter cyber school because, under state law, a portion of a district’s taxes follows a child until the cyber-school – the taxes parents have paid into the system. Districts and anti-school choice advocates only worry about the money that follows a student, not why the student left district-operated schools.
According to a report released earlier this year by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association and the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators, the biggest source of budget pressure for school districts is paying charter school tuition. Both associations say the costs of charter schools result in curtailed programs and tax increases for property owners.
Let us assess the veracity of these claims.
Based on data for the 2020-2021 school year, which is available on the state Department of Education website, the state’s 500 school districts combined collected more than $33.6 billion. federal, state, local and other revenue dollars. Of this amount, $1 billion, or 3%, went to cyber charter schools.
Is it possible that municipalities face expensive expenses? Yes, but cyber public charter schools are not the problem. In the same school year, districts spent $15.1 billion, or 45%, on legacy costs — $8.1 billion, or 24%, on employee benefits; $4.2 billion, or 12.4%, on pension expense; and $2.8 billion, or 8.4%, for debt service. Again, compare that to the billion dollars, or 3%, that districts paid to cyber charter schools.
Despite districts claiming the sky is falling, the 500 districts combined have amassed nearly $5.3 billion in reserve funds — an increase of more than $700 million, or 16%, over the past few years. past five years; supposedly, districts spent their fund balances; however, their own data shows otherwise.
It’s also important to note that school districts received a significant injection of federal funding during the COVID-19 pandemic — $6.5 billion — in addition to the federal, state, and local funds they normally receive each year.
A reasonable person can easily conclude that cyber public charter schools are not a financial drain on school district budgets. In fact, when a student enrolls in a public charter cyber school, school districts keep an average of 25% of the funding allocated to each student.
The saying, “If you tell a big enough lie and repeat it over and over again, people will eventually believe it” rings true. Districts and their supporters will no doubt continue to pound the drum of misinformation to intentionally mislead the public, when in fact they have complete control over how many families turn to public cyber schools at charter.
As long as districts remain entrenched in the status quo and refuse to put students and families first, they will only have themselves to blame.
Raising a child is not a one-way street. It is truly a partnership between the school and the family which requires listening, compassion and flexibility.
Until districts recognize that they are the problem, families will continue to seek alternatives to their local district.
Thomas D. Longenecker is President and CEO of Commonwealth Charter Academy.