Savings Beyond Transportation
Aside from new transportation routes, Solanco Public Schools also offers kids the option to just stay home altogether.
The Solanco Virtual Academy (SVA) is a district-operated cyber school that offers an alternative to standard instruction by teaching K12 kids at home through computers, with monitoring and evaluation performed by district teachers. “Some children just don’t perform as well in the classroom,” says Keith Kaufman, Solanco’s director of community relations, so Pennsylvania allows students the option to attend school online.
However, the state of Pennsylvania mandates that the district where a student lives fund the child’s online education even if the student chooses to attend a cyber school outside district limits, since some districts don’t offer cyber schools.
For years, Solanco lost a large portion of each online student’s $11,900 per-pupil expenditure to online programs that Solanco students attended outside the district. In 2006, the SVA was formed so Solanco could provide a good cyber education to students, “and keep our tax dollars,” says Kaufman. “The program speaks to our fiscal conservatism, but also to our innovation.”
Similar to the transportation program that gives a stipend to families who opt out of using public-school buses, Kaufman says parents who previously enrolled their students in online programs outside Solanco are offered a reimbursement grant of $1,000 to enroll their child in the SVA. And this brings back their per-pupil expenditure to their hometown district’s budget. Unlike the transportation dollars, which families may use at will, the SVA reimbursement must be used to purchase educational supplies like hardware or software for the cyber student.