“Cyber charter schools can educate students for far less than traditional ‘brick and mortar’ charter schools and school districts. Cyber charter schools do not maintain expensive buildings or sports fields and they do not provide students with transportation.”
Pennsylvania Cyber Charter Schools do have buildings and they do have transportation costs. It is true that a Cyber Charter School could have its teachers work from home and not host live settings for any of its students. If they did, these schools would be criticized for lack of socialization.
Cyber Charter Schools are developing more blended environments (brick and click) as they discover the opportunities and the value of live interaction with students, peers and teachers. One Cyber School has a traveling Science Lab on a bus. Others have established learning centers throughout the state. Others have partnered with local community groups to host live educational opportunities for their students.
This is consistent with the Cyber Charter School Law that requires that a “substantial portion of the curriculum and instruction be delivered via the Internet or some other electronic means.” It is also consistent with the best practices of the brick and mortar schools that are seeking to move to a cyber blended approach as well.
In addition, Cyber Charter Schools have costs that are similar to “transportation” costs that could be called “connection” costs. PA law requires that the school provide each student with a computer, a high speed Internet line, the delivery software and the technology team to support that system. For PA Leadership Charter School, this is approximately 14% of the school’s budget.
In addition, all Cyber Charter Schools must administer the state standardized tests (PSSA’s) to every student in the state. Because local school districts are not able to provide support for these tests, each school must set up sites throughout the state and send their teachers out to proctor the tests. For PA Leadership, this requires multiple trips to over 40 sites with overnight stays, costing the school 1.5% of the school’s budget.
These costs are similar to the building and transportation costs for the traditional brick and mortar schools.
Conclusion: The charter school movement was created to establish laboratories of invention. Now that Cyber Charter Schools have become successful, efforts should be put forth to enable them to share their successes, not to cut their funding and establish more bureaucratic handcuffs.
Cyber School Building Costs MYTH / TRUTH prepared by:
Dr. James Hanak, CEO, PA Leadership (Cyber) Charter School