Selected readings on US charter schools
WTAJ News investigated how they compare and how they are competing with public schools for your child and the funding that follows them.
For the Capenos family of Tyrone, the Altoona area Public Library is their school.
Kim Capenos is the mother of 3 daughters who’ve opted for Agora Cyber Charter School. She says, “I think it’s the best way to educate my kids I could possibly educate my kids. I wish I had done it earlier.”
They’re one of a growing number of cyber charter families. Their Agora Cyber Charter School has over 9,000 students who’ve left the public “brick and mortar” school for cyber learning.
Moshannon Valley School District Superintendent Tonya Devecchis-Kerr says, “I like it when our students are here.”
For this Superintendent that means keeping the 910 students inside her rural Moshannon Valley School District’s classrooms.
Devecchis-Kerr says beyond the academics, they have what cyber schools can’t provide.
“We have programs for school wide positive support; our counseling services; athletics and arts programs. ”
When a student heads to a cyber charter school, the money follows them. For Moshannon Valley that means $250,000 out of their $13 million budget – or $6,250 each for the 40 students that choose cyber charter schools right now.
Some head here to the Central PA Digital Learning Foundation (CPDLF). Its certified teachers offer live online sessions.
Dr. G. Brian Toth, CEO of the Central PA Digital Learning Foundation says, “We have students who perhaps the regular brick and mortar because they have a certain medical condition, maybe they have had a bad experience someplace and they’re looking for a fresh start.”
Like Agora — CPDLF enrolls K-12 graders online and arms each with a free laptop and reimbursed internet access.
There are 501 public schools, 154 charter schools, 15 considered cyber charter and 9 based here in Central PA. All are graded by the state which parents have access to.
According to the Pennsylvania School Performance Profile, Moshannon Valley High School received a 75. The elementary school received a 72.4. This is out of 100 total.
Devecchis-Kerr argues, “Many of these schools are not making the grade and our school is.”
CPDLF scored 31.7. CEO Dr. Toth argues, “We serve such a diverse need of a learner here – to me that’s to be expected.”
Agora Cyber Charter‘s 48.4 score doesn’t worry Cyber mom Kim Capenos either.
“For my kids I couldn’t say it’s better. The curriculum’s harder than what they are doing in the district.”
And Cyber kid Lavender Capenos agrees. “When you’re in cyber school, you get a ton of help.”
Devecchis-Kerr argues cyber charter schools should spend less on advertising and recruiting and more on educating the students. “How much money is being spent in lobbying? How much money is being spent on advertising?”
Dr. Toth explains, “Cyber charters; there’s not as many of them and they are spread around the state. Truthfully some people wouldn’t know they existed if they didn’t put up a billboard or have a TV ad.”
There are many choices for your child in the cyber-charter classroom online or the “bricks and mortar” school.
State Representative Mike Fleck has introduced several House Bills including HB 980 which would put a 3 year moratorium on new cyber charter schools in PA and HB 979 which tackles cyber charter school funding. Both are currently in the House Education Committee.
Source: WeAreCentralPA.com – by Carolyn Donaldson