Penn. Should Call Time-Out On Cyber Charters

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Department of Education has the opportunity to make a meaningful New Year’s resolution in raising standards for performance and accountability.

Across Pennsylvania, school districts face unprecedented financial and structural challenges, leading many—including Harrisburg, Lancaster, York, and other mid-state communities—to drain reserves, furlough staff, and end proven, research-based programs. Yet one sector of public education is burgeoning, due in part to a lack of sufficient regulation by the state and a funding system that creates incentives for rapid growth.

More than 30,000 students attend Pennsylvania’s 16 cyber charter schools, up from 12 earlier this year. With eight more cyber charter applications currently before the Department of Education, the sector’s footprint is set to double in the span of just six months. In a state where education policy change normally assumes a cautious pace, this rapid growth should be reason enough for leaders to tap the brakes. But given the questions concerning the academic and operational performance of cyber charter schools, the imperative for a time-out on further approvals is clear.

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