Pennsylvania’s largest cyber charter school reached an enrollment of 10,000 students last fall, a milestone that could quickly recede in the distance as education officials across the nation continue to face budget challenges.
Michael Horn, executive director of the Innosight Institute, an education think tank in California, said Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School’s rapid growth points to the broadening appeal of charters, noting the lower overhead and relative economy of online schools makes them attractive to policymakers.
The school, based in western Pennsylvania, opened in 2000, three years after the state legislature passed a law allowing the creation of charter schools. In Pennsylvania, the state pays charter schools 75 percent of the per-pupil dollars it would allocate to traditional schools.
PA Cyber students are provided a free laptop and Internet access. The curriculum is delivered online by state-certified teachers, and the school requires at least one parent be available during the student’s study hours to oversee the education.
The presence of cyber schools benefits the public, said Fred Miller, PA Cyber communications coordinator, because his and similar schools have forced traditional schools to be more competitive.
“They’re starting to regard their families as clients instead of a captive audience,” Miller said. “They have to provide service—and quality service—if they want to keep them.”
Joel Mathis ([email protected]) writes from Philadelphia. Excerpted from The Heartland Institute’s School Reform News.