Reflections: Then and Now
Submitted by Frank Murphy on July 21, 2011
There are currently eleven cyber charter schools operating in Pennsylvania. The functions of these schools, for the most part, are invisible to public scrutiny.
One of the 89 schools whose PSSA test scores are under investigation by the Pennsylvania Department of Education is the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School. According to a study conducted by Data Recognition Corporation (DRC) on behalf of the state, the test results of multiple grades of this school were flagged for potential irregularities.
I had written a post earlier this year concerning the large sum of funding this school receives from state-mandated charter school payments. This money is drawn from the operational budgets of the local public school districts where its cyber school students live. I noted how this one virtual school receives more funding per school year than the entire budgets of many Pennsylvania school districts serving multiple schools.
In my post, I noted that “how cyber schools spend their hefty share of public education funds” is a question deserving of an in-depth response. I requested that the managers of the cyber charter schools operating in our state, explain to the general public exactly how they expend the funds they receive.
Now would be a good time for the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School’s manager to respond to this request, particularly in light of its suspect PSSA test scores. In consideration of the large amount of public tax dollars expended on the operation of this cyber charter school, it is a reasonable idea to expect a high degree of accountability from its administrators.
With Pennsylvania’s cyber charter schools receiving a significant proportion of local taxpayers’ funds statewide, it appears that accountability to the public is long overdue.
Cyber Charter Schools Receive Lion’s Share Of School Funds
Submitted by Frank Murphy, May 19, 2011
In its 2009-2010 School Finance Revenue Report, the Pennsylvania Department of Education included 113 charter schools in its inventory of public revenue-supported institutions. The total amount of local, state, federal, and other funding received by these schools was listed at $835,424,755. This averages out to $7,304, 643 per charter school.
The charter school receiving the smallest share of revenue was Nitney Valley Charter School at $707,684. The Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School took in the largest portion of charter revenue at $95,331,379. The next three highest funded charter schools in the state are also cyber schools: Agora Charter School ($55,189,011), Commonwealth Connections Academy Charter School ($42,150,046) and Pennsylvania Virtual Charter School ($39,170,182).
Statewide, these four cyber schools received a combined total of approximately 231 million dollars in 2009, compared with about 309 million dollars allocated to the 66 individual charter schools operating in Philadelphia during this fiscal period. This represents 75% of the total amount funds allocated to all of the brick and mortar Philadelphia charter schools in Philadelphia.
Not only do these few cyber schools receive the lion’s share of the individual charter school revenue statewide, they also take in as much funding as entire public school districts with multiple schools within their jurisdiction. Take a look at the following sample of suburban school districts in Pennsylvania, along with the amount of revenue they received in this fiscal year.
• Centennial in Bucks County ($88,703,654) K-12, operates 10 schools
• Tredyffrin-Eastown in Chester County ($99,640,180) K-12 operates 8 schools
•Ridley Township in Delaware County ($84, 367, 065) K-12 operates 10 schools
•Cheltenham in Montgomery County ($94,562,036) K-12 operates 8 schools
In rounded figures, these four school districts with a combined total of 36 schools received 367 million dollars in taxpayer revenues. Yet the combined income of 231 million dollars received by the four cyber schools, equals 63% of the combined revenue of these four large school districts.
Considering that “non-cyber” brick and mortar schools and districts throughout the state have significant overhead in the form of building maintenance, utilities, food services and transportation, one wonders how these four cyber schools spend the money they receive. After all, they don’t have school buildings that need to be maintained. They don’t have cafeterias, busing, utilities or school safety costs to support. They also operate with much smaller staffs than brick and mortar schools.
How cyber schools spend their hefty share of public education funds is a question which deserves an in depth response.
Cyber school teachers, administrators, and Chief Executive Officers, I would love to learn more about the actual costs of operations in your schools. You can reach me at email@example.com.