My child is a second-class student.
This school year, the budget for my child’s public education is almost a third lower than the education budget for his peers in our school district.
That’s because my child attends a public cyber school.
My child’s public education, like your child’s, is funded by the school district in which I live and pay taxes. At the beginning of each school year, the district determines how much money it can spend per child. That per-pupil funding follows my child to his public cyber school.
However, before that funding is transferred, the district takes 21 separate deductions.
My child does not deserve to be treated less than other public school students, but that is exactly what will continue to happen if misguided legislation is passed in the state House.
Public cyber schools are a vital piece of our education system that we cannot afford to lose.
These schools present all children with a top-quality education without regard to socioeconomic status, race, ZIP code or education needs.
However, my child is worth much less than students in brick-and-mortar schools, according to House Bills 759, 617 and 618.
These bills propose additional deductions to per-pupil public cyber funding that would further the educational gap. Most disturbing is that none of these deductions is based on the actual cost of providing a high-quality public cyber education.
To illustrate this, ask yourself if you’ve ever seen or heard of a school without a library.
If HB 759 passes, you will.
This bill, sponsored by Rep. Mike Reese and supported by House Majority Leader Rep. Mike Turzai, would cut all funding for public cyber students’ library services, preventing our children from accessing a basic tool of public education.
Although public cyber school libraries are cost effective to maintain because they are digital, there are still costs associated to run and use these.
Have you ever heard of a school without a nurse?
HB 759 would also cut 100 percent of public cyber students’ health services. School nurses provide necessary screenings to help our children stay healthy. In fact, it is state mandate to have a nurse for each public cyber school.
What about a school with no extracurricular activities?
HB 759 would cut half of public cyber students’ extracurricular funding. This means it would be much harder for public cyber students to attend field trips or participate in activities such as sporting events, band or chorus.
Yet another alarming aspect of this bill is that it would allow traditional districts to take 50 percent of per-pupil funding for their own cyber programs from funding owed to public cyber school students.
There is no definition of a “cyber program,” so districts could use this funding for almost anything related to a computer.
Draining my child’s public education fund doesn’t stop there.
House Bills 617 and 618, sponsored by Rep. Joe Emrick and supported by Turzai, pile on additional cuts with a full deduction of pension payments from public cyber school per-pupil funding.
The saddest part is that common-sense reforms are being ignored.
For example, school districts refuse to allow public cyber schools to use their facilities for state-mandated testing. This forces public cyber schools to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on rental and travel costs to meet state testing-facility standards.
If brick-and-mortar schools would work with public cyber schools, instead of against them, we could improve education for all of our children while saving taxpayer dollars.
House Bills 759, 617 and 618 are a huge loss for our children.
If these proposals are passed, the funding cuts imposed would force outstanding small public cyber schools to close within a year, cause larger public cyber schools to make drastic cuts to student services and force many large public cyber schools to close within three years.
My child is a second-class student. At least that’s what some state legislators are telling me.
Monica Allison is president of Pennsylvania Families for Public Cyber Schools (pacyberfamilies.org).