PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A KDKA investigation is getting a response from Governor Tom Corbett.
Investigator Andy Sheehan questioned the performance and funding of cyber schools and whether some schools are getting money over and above the actual cost of educating a child online.
Gov. Corbett says it’s time to reduce the funding for cyber schools.
KDKA’s Andy Sheehan’s reports looked at the funding of online education — and Pa. Cyber in particular — where school enrollment has spawned a building boom and a host new ventures.
Traditional school district superintendents complain that while they’re laying off teachers and cutting programs, that boom is being funding by money over and above the cost of educating a child online.
“And we believe the money that they’re spending for the extras, for a lot of the new building construction is really — dare you say profit – off of the public taxpayer of money over and above the actual cost,” Ron Sofo with the Freedom Area School District said.
Under the funding formula, traditional districts must pay between $8,000 and $10,000 a year for every student who opts out of their schools for cyber school.
State Auditor General Jack Wagner puts the actual cost of educating a student online at $3,000 a year.
“You can’t tell me that the same cost exists by going to school on a computer compared to going to a school building,” Wagner said.
And now for the first time, Govenor Corbett tells KDKA he’ll ask the legislature to reduce cyber school funding.
“Because there is some legitimacy to the arguments that they don’t need the same amount as maybe a brick and mortar charter needs, so we need to look for some equity there,” Corbett said.
“Although they don’t have the same costs, they’ve got different costs,” Robert Fayfich with the PA Coalition of Charter Schools said.
Cyber and charter advocates say while critics underestimate technology and other costs — they welcome a review.
“And what we’re asking for is an independent commission to look at that from a statewide perspective, and look at cyber funding and traditional school funding and come up with an equitable program,” he said.
Governor Corbett says he’ll ask the legislature this summer to determine the actual cost of educating a child online and find an equitable solution.