Report: Pennsylvania Online Charter Schools Need Oversight

A report released by Pennsylvania State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale has come down hard on online charter schools, saying that the lack of oversight of that segment of schools is an “enormous problem” that needs legislative action to fix, reports Adams Clark for the Pocono Record.

The report, which is 22 pages in length, also suggests that Pennsylvania create a separate charter school oversight board to mandate charter school law.

In addition, the report recommends the reinstatement of the state’s partial reimbursement to school districts for charter school tuition costs. It also suggests that charter schools give annual presentation reports to school boards and transfer the funding of online charter schools from the school districts themselves to the state.

Katy Pude, superintendent of the Bradford Area School District, is quoted as saying:

“Cyber charters consistently under perform school districts on standardized assessments,” Pude said. In addition, she pointed to the fact that school districts, with locally elected boards, determine the best use of local taxpayer dollars through open meetings.

Online charter schools In Pennsylvania, online charter schools are a subject of much debate and scrutiny. Some people love them, and praise them for getting students more engaged and providing flexibility. Others oppose them, saying that they are a waste of money and not readily available to everyone.

In Quakertown, the system of online charter schools appears to be flourishing. Most students in the school district are enrolled in at least one online class and all ninth graders receive laptops that they can bring to college after they graduate.

Half a decade ago, Quakertown was losing students who left to enroll in cyber charter schools. But, since 2008, when the program began, they have enrolled students from across the state in its online classes, which boosts funds. Now, graduation rates are up and the district’s budget is healthy again.

“We’ve had increases in our student achievement,” said Cindy Lapinski, the principal of Strayer Middle School in Quakertown. “I don’t know if it’s technology, but I can say that kids outside of this building are wired 24/7, and for many of our students, that’s the way they think, that’s the way they operate.”

However, not everyone takes such a positive view on online charter schools. Some state that they are taking money away from brick and mortar schools, as school districts by law are required to pay students’ tuition to charter schools. Other opponents say that charter schools are not regulated enough and need more oversight from the state.

The report cites the embattled Pocono Mountain Charter School.

Nearly a decade after the Pocono Mountain School District identified problems there, the report said, the school is still open even though its charter has been revoked, it has no board of trustees and is being run by a court-appointed custodian.