Pa. legislature moves to rein in cyberschools

Bill would change funding from school districts to state DOE. Is that accountability or strangulation?

As cyberschools become increasingly popular, Pennsylvania school officals are wondering who should bear the burden of funding them, reports The Morning Call.

Superintendents from the two largest Pennsylvania school districts are scheduled to testify at a public hearing on how the cyberschools are going to be funded and regulated.

''We're trying to give strict accountability to cyberschools just as we have for all public schools,'' said state Rep. Karen Beyer, a Republican who is author of the legislation, House Bill 2616.

''As a former school board member, we had to be accountable,'' she said. ''I just want to make sure that's happening here.''

There is a lot of support for Byer's bill among legislators who feel that that the current system is without limitations. But the bill does have its critics.

''We don't buy the fact that the intent isn't to harm cyberschools and end them as a viable choice,'' Daniels said. ''It [the legislation] will starve them. We understand, despite the rhetoric, they're against us.''

Daniels said he believes School Boards Association have been against cyberschools since the beginning. The gist of the bill is to amend Pennsylvania's school code by removing cyberschools from the charter school designation and shifting the responsibility of funding them from school districts to the state Department of Education. Funding would come from the state on a sliding-scale formula based on enrollment.

''They are radically different,'' Beyer said. ''The costs and expenses vary.''

The bill would add more oversight and regulation of cyberschools. School employees would be prevented from from sitting on school boards. The bill also calls for an increase in standards and volunteer criminal background checks for cyberschool employees, as well as establishing a minimum age for enrolling a child.

More hearings on the legislation are forthcoming.

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