PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Pa. Cyber Charter School founder Nick Trombetta‘s guilty plea may prompt a closer look at the operation of charter schools across the state and cyber charters in particular.
State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale has already launched an audit of Pa. Cyber to determine if it’s operating above board after Trombetta.
“There’s no question that what has happened in Midland is a lot of money, and it’s coming from somewhere and we’re going to find out where it’s going to,” DePasquale said.
The question of where the money to fund cyber charters comes from is easy to answer. It’s from school property taxes, but bigger question is, are we paying too much?
When a child opts out of your local brick and mortar school for an online education, your local school district pays an average of about $10,000 a year to the cyber school.
But DePasquale says that’s about $5,000 or $6,000 more than what’s required since cyber schools have no grounds to maintain or secure and no athletic teams to field.
U.S. Attorney David Hickton said that excess led to corruption in Midland.
“It’s obviously cheaper to educate these children on a charter platform that these sums are going to build up,” Hickton said.
The feds contend that Pa. Cyber was awash in excess cash that spread to other entities created by Trombetta, who was accused of syphoning off $8 million in cash, even buying a corporate plane, a Florida condo and expansive real estate holdings.
“The sad fact is that all of that money could have been put to educating children,” Hickton said. “That’s why we allow people in charge of school districts to gather money, and superintendents of charter schools have to live to the same standard as superintendents of brick and mortar schools.”