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Report Says PA Charter Schools Underperforming

Pennsylvanians spend more than $463 million a year sending children to cyber charter schools. (Monkey Business/Adobe Stock)
Pennsylvanians spend more than $463 million a year sending children to cyber charter schools. (Monkey Business/Adobe Stock)
June 6, 2019

HARRISBURG, Pa. – A new study shows the performance of Pennsylvania charter schools is mixed at best, and extremely negative for students at cyber charters.

Each year, taxpayers in the Keystone State spend more than $1.6 billion on tuition for charter schools.

But the study, by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes, says almost a third of charter schools in the state post low achievement and academic growth in English language arts. For math, it's more than 40%.

According to Susan Spicka, executive director of Education Voters of Pennsylvania, students at cyber charter schools suffer major losses.

"Compared with traditional public school peers, a Pennsylvania student enrolled in a cyber charter loses the annual equivalent of 106 days of learning in reading and 118 days in math," she points out.

Supporters of charter schools say the report's data on cyber charters is out of date, and that the study shows brick and mortar charter schools are performing at least as well as traditional public schools.

Spicka points out that school districts are paying tuition for every student who enrolls in charter schools, but the districts' costs don't go down an equivalent amount.

And that, she says, is hurting the ability of public schools to do their jobs.

"School districts throughout the state now are raising property taxes, cutting teachers, gutting programs in order to come up with $1.6 billion to support charter schools," she states.

Spicka adds that the General Assembly now is considering legislation that would allow for the unchecked expansion of brick and mortar charter schools with limited academic accountability.

Spicka maintains the report shows that state legislators need to focus on holding charter schools accountable to taxpayers and students, especially the 35,000 children enrolled in commercial cyber charter schools.

"Lawmakers should be focusing on providing the tools necessary to ensure that these cyber charter schools are going to improve educational outcomes for students, and if they don't, then they need to get shut down," she stresses.

Disclosure: Education Voters of Pennsylvania contributes to our fund for reporting. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA