It is time we put to rest the myth that private enterprises always offer much better services at far cheaper prices than public enterprises can.
Yes, there is always the anecdotal tale of the plain, basic commode seat that the Army paid $1,000 or more dollars for. It seems to me that tale has been around for at least 50 years. Doubtless, there are occasional foul ups when more money is expended than need be. Yet, on the average, public services perform as well, if not better than private businesses and often at the same cost or less. The U.S. military, for all that it is derided about inefficiency, helped win World War II without the use of soldiers of fortune. I suspect that mercenaries would have been less efficient and much more costly.
The core difference in public and private entities is the profit motive. The U.S. military functions out of patriotic duty. The hired soldiers are in the war for the money. For-profit entities’ main mission is making money. There is nothing wrong with serving the bottom line, but we, the taxpayers, should be informed. We should realize that for-profits have one major goal. For-profits are responsible to their owners or boards, not to the general public. Their aim is to guarantee profits.
Charter cyber schools are in the money making business. While they may be interested in providing a quality education to their enrollees, their main concern is bound to be the bottom line. That’s natural, but that may not be the best way to serve students.
Fortunately, Adams County School Districts are led by boards and administrators who are keenly aware of the charter cyber school issues. Those administrators and boards are making a concerted effort to alert the public to the problems. Charter cybers are expensive. Adams County schools pay more than $4 million dollars each year to charter cybers. In addition, charter cybers are not held accountable. The charter cyber schools are not well monitored.
How do charter cyber students perform?
According to Data First, “On average, nationally, students in 17 percent of charter schools performed significantly better than if they had attended their neighborhood traditional public school.”
That might be encouraging, but Data First added, “On the flip side, students in 37 percent of charter schools performed significantly worse, and students in the remaining 46 percent of charter schools did not perform significantly better or worse than if they had attended their neighborhood traditional public school.”
Considering the small percentage of students who appear to do better in charter cybers compared to the percentage who do worse and the many who perform at basically the same level whether they are in private school or public school, it seems an enormous waste of taxpayers’ dollars.
Also, consider that, on the average, public schools that offer their own cyber schools do so at a much lower cost per student than the charter cyber schools do.
Naturally, the drain of funding produced by charter cybers must inevitably lead to increases in property taxes.
Obviously, siphoning money from public schools draws down on the districts’ funds making their job of effectively educating students harder.
Adams County school district superintendents and board members invited the public to a forum, May 8, at Gettysburg’s middle school. The topic was the charter cyber school dilemma.
The residents attending the forum were informed that legislation is pending in the state House and Senate aimed at addressing the charter cyber school issue.
In February, when Rep. Curtis Sonney, R-4th, sponsored House Bill 526, he explained his proposal: “Under my legislation, if a student enrolls in a full-time cyber education program offered by the student’s school district of residence, the student’s enrollment in the program will be subject to no tuition or fees other than those the school district may impose on its students generally. My legislation also provides that, by contrast, if a student lives in a school district that offers a full-time cyber education program, but still chooses to enroll in a cyber charter school, the student or the student’s parent or guardian must pay the cyber school a per-student amount calculated in accordance with the charter school funding formula set forth in the Charter School Law.” -Rep. Sonney serves as chair of the House Education Committee.
Senator Judith Schwank, D-11th, offered Senate Bill 34, which essentially proposes the same remedy as House Bill 526.
Fortunately, Adams County has a head start. Some school districts already have their own cyber schools or virtual academies. Conewago Valley School District has, since 2005-’06, offered what the district calls the Conewago Blended Academy.
Gettysburg Area School District provides its own online academy — Gettysburg Area Virtual Network.
Upper Adams offers its cyber-academy through a partnership with Odysseyware Academy.
Now, what is needed is for us — the taxpayers — to support H.B. 526 and S.B. 34.
Yes, I know there are far more duties to tend to in our seemingly short days. Even though I’m retired — with supposedly nothing to do — still, I struggle to find time to simply email my representatives. Even so, plugging this drain of school funds and helping ensure that public schools have the monetary resources they need to provide vital education to our children and grandchildren is urgent.
Even if you have recently contacted your representatives about charter cybers, do a follow up. That will reinforce your concerns for the cyber issue. If you have yet to contact your representatives, don’t miss this opportunity.
Contact: Sen. Ryan Aument, chair of the Senate Education Committee, at Senate Box 203036, Harrisburg, PA 17120, R: 9 East Wing. Call (717) 787-4420.
Indicate your support for S.B. 34.
Also contact your House Representative and tell him/her you support H.B. 526:
In Adams County: Rep. Dan Moul, R-91st:
30 West Middle St. Gettysburg, PA 17325;
Call (717) 334-3010
Toll free (866) 646-4915
In Adams/Cumberland: Rep. Torren Ecker, R-193rd:
282 W. King St., Abbottstown, Pennsylvania.
Tecker@pahousegop.com.; or call either, (717) 259-7802 or toll free, (877) 480-9525.
Reminder: Go vote. Tomorrow is primary election day in Pennsylvania.