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Bill would eliminate choice

Pennsylvania House Bill 1897 has been introduced in Harrisburg. It would force school districts to have a Cyber School Program and for all 14 public cyber charter schools to close.

The main points of this legislation are:

All Pennsylvania cyber charter schools must cease operations after next year (2020-21).

This means approximately 34,000 students would have about 20 months to figure out what school — besides their preferred choice — they can attend. Since 87 percent of districts have no brick and mortar charter schools, cyber charter schools are the only public schooling alternative for many students. Eliminating cyber charters would force students who can’t afford private school back into a district that wasn’t meeting their needs.

All districts will be required to develop their own — or contract with another district, intermediate unit, or third party — full-time cyber program and provide two additional cyber programs via a third-party vendor.

School districts must provide or reimburse for all technology and internet service.

Upon liquidation, PA cyber charter school assets would revert back to school districts based on each district’s enrollment in each cyber school. Any leftover liabilities would not be covered by the district or the commonwealth, leaving lenders or vendors responsible for the debt. Only after the cyber charter school is depleted of its assets (but not its debt) can these same cyber charter schools then offer services to the traditional school districts.

School districts may offer “full time” cyber programs. Brick and mortar charter schools may not.

The bill establishes a state cyber education advisory committee with no parent representation.

This bill sets forth the goal of saving school districts money by forcing all students who want a cyber education to utilize the internet schools that would be required to be developed by local school districts. The result would be to close 14 PA cyber charter schools that serve 34,428 students (2018-19).

Pennsylvania cyber charter schools have spent as much as 22 years developing what might very well be the finest cyber school experience in the nation. Every day, thousands of cyber professionals go to work in these schools with a 100 percent dedication to this kind of K-12 education. House Bill 1897 would force all of these professionals to be fired. Any students they are serving would have to go back to a school district that is being forced to provide a similar cyber experience.

Why would we take away an experiment that is being developed by thousands of professionals who love what they are doing and have a mission to perfect and give this experiment to another group that has shown that they don’t want it? Oh, I know. It’s the money … yet another reason to reject socialism in all of its forms.

Dr. James Hanak is president of the PCCSA and CEO of PA Leadership Charter School, West Chester.

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