"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Bricks and Mortar Schools vs. Cyberspace

Finally getting the message straight.

Taxpayers are funding privately-held, no transparency cyber charter schools with that giant sucking sound - moving jobs, not overseas like with NAFTA for cheap labor but bringing it to a school and a neighborhood near you. Who needs building, gyms, cafeterias, food, nurses, or teachers when all you need is to put a kid in front of a computer. Pa Cyber will take care of your kids, don't worry just because Pa is a crook.

Cyber excess: Taxpayers should not over-fund charter schools

July 20, 2012 12:00 am
There is something very wrong with an education funding system that has public school districts chopping staff and ending programs while a publicly funded charter school is making so much money that it can pay millions to its spinoff companies.
The operators of the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School, the state's first and largest online charter with more than 11,300 students, channeled their innovation into two offshoot management entities, one a nonprofit and the other a for-profit firm.
Part of the reason that's been possible is the amount of taxpayer money the online school receives far exceeds what it costs to educate cyber students. Payments to all charters are based on school districts' costs of teaching their students but, while bricks-and-mortar charters spend an average of $13,411 per student per year, cyber charters spend an average of $10,145, according to a state auditor general's report.
The online schools get to keep that average $3,266 per student, and those dollars add up for a school the size of Beaver County-based Pa Cyber.
The result is that the school in 2010-11 received $103 million from districts for students who attend its home-based, Internet-delivered program. The school paid $44 million to the National Network of Digital Schools Management Foundation, a nonprofit created in 2005 to manage the burgeoning charter. In turn, the NNDS paid $6.7 million to the for-profit Avanti Management Group.
Many of the people who started the cyber school transitioned to roles with NNDS, Avanti or both. The relationships were so tight that former Gov. Ed Rendell's Education Department advised putting some distance between the operations. No new changes have been ordered under Gov. Tom Corbett.
Last week agents from the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Department of Education searched the school's headquarters in Midland, its accountants' office and properties rented by its related companies in Ohio. The U.S. attorney says the school itself is not the target.
Regardless of where the investigation leads, the practices of Pa Cyber make it clear that Pennsylvania must close gaps in how it oversees the use of taxpayer dollars for charters, particularly online cyber schools. That must happen before the state moves ahead with the governor's plans for widespread expansion of school privatization, in the form of more charters, cybers and vouchers for private schools.
Charter schools, including cybers, can be appropriate alternatives to traditional public schools for many students. They must not be a way to transfer into private hands more public money than is needed to educate a child.

First Published 2012-07-20 00:01:24


  1. Notice that the last two sentences contradict each other. The purpose of charters schools is the latter of the two sentences.

  2. For more about virtual charter schools, listen to Education Radio's investigative report titled: The Reality of Virtual Schooling


    In this radio program, we explore the proliferation of virtual schools. Virtual schools offer on-line education to primary and secondary school students without the added expenses associated with brick and mortar structures and unionized teachers and support staff.

    We hear opinions on virtual schools from well-known education scholars Jonathon Kozol and Diane Ravitch. We investigate one such virtual school, the Massachusetts Virtual Academy in Greenfield, Massachusetts. We talk with the superintendent of schools, Susan Hollins, who was the driving force behind the opening of that school in 2010, and we also speak with two Greenfield School Committee members, Maryelen Calderwood and Andrew Blais, who opposed it. Finally, we turn to early childhood education scholar Nancy Carlsson-Paige, who talks about the vitally important social, emotional and cognitive needs of young children that are in danger of not being met by virtual schools.

    We also explore K12 Inc., a for-profit publicly traded technology-based education company that touts itself as the largest provider of proprietary curriculum and online education programs for primary and secondary students in the United States. It is also one of the fastest growing operators of virtual charter schools worldwide. K-12 Inc. was founded in 1999 by Michael Milken and William J. Bennett, a former Reagan Secretary of Education and Bush senior drug czar. We take some time to talk about the background of these men, along with several others involved with this company, as a means to expose the insidious nature of companies like K12 Inc.