Seneca Valley school board members want to reform Pennsylvania's cyber charter school law, and they want the public to join their quest.
Board members plan to vote on a resolution Monday calling for the state Legislature to make changes to the law that would make those schools more accountable for the public funds they receive.
Seneca Valley officials contend there is "double dipping" because school districts are required to pay pension costs as part of the cyber charter school tuition formula. But under the state retirement code, the schools are reimbursed for up to 50 percent of their pension costs.
Officials also contend that cyber charter schools don't have to make their expenses public, and the district can't verify that its contributions are going solely to education.
"They are privately owned and many of their executives' salaries and expenses are not made public," said Seneca Valley superintendent Tracy Vitale.
Nearly 200 Seneca Valley students are opting to attend cyber charter schools each year; in the past five years, Seneca Valley has sent $7.3 million to cyber charter schools, according to the resolution.
The district had received some money for those expenses until Gov. Tom Corbett eliminated cyber school reimbursements from the state budget in the 2011-2012 school year.
Even when the district was getting reimbursement, it was only about $300,000 per year, according to the resolution. Seneca Valley sends more than $1 million per year to the schools.
Ms. Vitale added that other costs to the district are harder to calculate.
"Students are in and out of these charter schools. And, often, when they come back they are not up to the same work standards as our students," she said.
Ms. Vitale said it's hard to determine the cost to the district when teachers have to bring these students up to speed.
School Director Eric DiTullio added that Seneca Valley operates its own cyber school, which does meet the district's standards.
"When students go to our charter cyber school and then come back to the district we don't have to retrain them," he said.
School board member Eric Gordon said he's unhappy that public money is going to cyber charter schools, but the public is not able to see how that money is spent.
School officials in their resolution cite a special report from the auditor general addressing disparities in the Pennsylvania cyber charter school funding formula. They want the General Assembly to amend the cyber charter school law and establish a funding formula based on the actual cost of educating students at these schools.
The resolution urges all parents and teachers to contact the General Assembly to support the legislation.
Laure Cioffi, freelance writer: email@example.com.