New Castle News

Schools

October 9, 2013

Senate to consider cyber school bill

HARRISBURG — A bill heading to the Senate after passing the House in September would allow school districts across Pennsylvania to keep $41 million a year that they now pass along to cyber schools as part of the tuition for students who enroll online.

The legislation also would force cyber schools to return any money they receive in tuition from school districts but don’t spend educating the students. Cyber schools are collectively sitting on more than $65 million in unused funds, according to an analysis by the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials.

But at the heart of the debate is the question of how much difference is there in the cost of educating a child online compared to students that attend a bricks-and-mortar school.

House Bill 618 goes too far and could drive many of the state’s cyber schools out of business, said Jenny Bradmon of Pennsylvania Families for Public Cyber Schools. Bradmon is the mother of two children enrolled in cyber schools.

School districts “don’t like the competition,” Bradmon said. “Our kids are being treated like second-class citizens.”

School districts deduct about 30 percent from the tuition when they pay cyber schools because it’s recognized that online schools don’t have the all the fixed costs of brick and mortar schools, Bradmon said.

Those deductions include the costs of services that neither the public school district nor the online school provide to cyber students. The existing deductions include transportation costs. The new legislation would add food service costs to the lists of deductions. The new legislation would cut another 10 to 15 percent from the cyber schools, Bradmon said.

Proponents say the bill’s chief aim is to close a loophole that allows cyber schools to get paid twice, by the local school district and the state, for their pension costs.

Teachers in cyber schools are members of the same pension used by other public school teachers.

“Eliminating the double dip for pensions was our top priority,” said Jay Himes, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials.

The business administrator’s group has estimated that eliminating the pension double-dip will save school districts $27 million.

The bill passed with overwhelming support, but there was opposition from both sides of the aisle.

State Rep. Mark Longietti, D-Mercer County, opposed the bill in part because it only eliminated the pension double-dip for cyber schools but not for bricks and mortar charter schools. The bill also included provisions that would allow cyber schools to bill the state rather than the local district.

Local school officials have repeatedly claimed they have found evidence that cyber schools over-bill for students, something that is less likely to be discovered by staff in Harrisburg, Longietti said.

Lawmakers also missed an opportunity to beef up public oversight of the boards that operate charter schools, added state Rep. Patrick Harkins, D-Erie County.

The biggest problem is that House Bill 618 is a missed opportunity, Longietti said.

“I think there may be some who will say we passed legislation in the House, so we shouldn’t have to look at this again for a year or two. And we could have done much better,” Longietti said.

State Rep. Brad Roae, R-Crawford County, opposed the bill because he felt blaming cyber schools does not force school districts to confront their true financial problems — irresponsible spending on construction and school boards’ willingness to grant raises to teachers during the recession.

“Crawford Central’s $52 million budget works out to $289,000 for each of the 180 school days,” Roae said. “HB618 would save money to fund about three hours of the school year.”

(Email: jfinnerty@cnhi.com)

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Schools
  • Yauger.jpg Yauger’s Mercer County trial on hold

    A pending criminal trial for the former Midwestern Intermediate Unit IV executive director has been continued again in Mercer County.

    July 9, 2014 1 Photo

  • Yauger.jpg Yauger now facing federal charge

    With Mercer County court proceedings pending this week, Cecelia Yauger faces federal prosecution for alleged business credit card misuse.

    July 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • school.jpg New Castle board adopts budget despite uncertainty

    The New Castle school board adopted its 2014-15 budget Monday but may have to re-open it next week. The $5.4 million budget, introduced in May, has no tax increase and will not tap into the fund balance. Taxes remain at 17.72 mills.

    July 2, 2014 1 Photo

  • Todora.jpg Board, staff bids farewell to superintendent

    Dr. Mary Todora will retire Monday from the Neshannock school district. “I remember eight and a half years ago when Dr. John Dietz (then-board president) called to tell me I got the job. I was thrilled,” Todora said at her final board meeting.

    June 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Rich.jpg Vo-tech administrators get bonuses, no raises

    Lawrence County Career and Technical Center administrators will get one-time bonuses instead of raises next year. The joint operating committee approved one-year agreements that would freeze the salaries of director Leonard A. Rich and the principal, head custodian, cafeteria supervisor and computer technician.

    June 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • FrankAloi.jpg Frank Aloi: 50 years of school spirit in Ellwood City

    Frank Aloi is a true Wolverine. Aloi, who turned 73 Friday, spent the past half-century affiliated with the Ellwood City school district and its sports teams.

    June 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • FrankAloi.JPG Frank Aloi Retiring: Ellwood superintendent leaving amid budget woes

    Frank Aloi is retiring next month as Ellwood City’s superintendent of schools. Aloi, a 50-year district employee and its superintendent for nearly 12, submitted his retirement notice to the board during an executive session prior to Thursday’s meeting. His last day is July 16.

    June 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • school.jpg District mulls building sale options

    The New Castle school district is considering selling its three recently closed buildings through a sealed bid process.

    June 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Perfect.jpg Your Education: Shenango grad never missed a day

    They say nobody’s perfect. But for 13 years, Jenna DiGiammarino certainly was. When Jenna left last night’s commencement ceremonies at Shenango High School, she did so not only with a diploma in hand, but also with a flawless record of attendance dating back to Day One of kindergarten.

    June 7, 2014 1 Photo

  • 03.jpg Photo Gallery, Story: Three New Castle schools close today for good

    Today is bittersweet for New Castle Area School District elementary students and teachers. Three buildings packed with history as longtime learning institutions are closing their doors for good.
     

    June 5, 2014 1 Photo

House Ads
Poll

Summer is a perfect time for a good read. Where's your favorite place to spend off time with your nose in a book?

Relaxing on the couch
On a bench in the park
By the pool
At the closest beach
I don't have time to read
     View Results