On Thursday, May 30th the Senate Education Committee held a hearing at North Lebanon High School to discuss the charter and cyber charter funding formula effecting schools across the state. See the agenda for this hearing here. This has been a heated topic for many years, as the funding structure currently employed fails to support learning methods in an equitable way.
The hearing discussed Senate Bill 335, which was recently drafted by Senator Schwank of the 11th District. Among other things, the most considerable piece of this legislation will allow school districts to retain 100% of student funds should that school district offer an in-house cyber program. This eliminates the concept of school choice for parents and their children, so long as a home school district develops and offers its own cyber program.
The hearings gave voice to several groups, offering opinions and perspectives from opposing sides of this argument. School districts are frustrated. They are losing money because students are opting to attend cyber charter and brick-and-mortar charter schools. As their students leave, they must make cuts. The districts also argue that cyber charter schools have different expenses and costs that do not match those found within a traditional school district. They contest that cyber schools have too much money and that their CEOs and other administrators are winning big in a game that excludes the students.
Charter schools and cyber charters have a different opinion on the matter. They suggest that while the funding formula needs to be tweaked to better represent school cost, revoking the ability of choice from parents and students is damaging to education. Should the state mandate that a school district could maintain funds so long as they offer their own cyber program, students would lose the ability to truly choose which school he/she wishes to attend. Consideration of alternative learning models, instructional methods, and teaching staff go out the window.
The hearing allowed for serious debate and considerations. Discussions came to a close following the testimony of Monica Frank, a 21CCCS parent, regarding the experiences of her son, Stephen. Her words rang true, expressing the need to maintain school choice, as it was the thing that saved her son. Read Monica’s testimony here.
It is the hope of the commonwealth that these issues will be resolved in a timely fashion. We’ve been arguing far too long, distracting ourselves from the real job at hand: educating our students.
Build awareness! Read SB 335 here and voice your own thoughts!
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