Superintendent: Cyber schools cost more, with worse results

| 23 Apr 2015 | 03:59

By Anya Tikka
— The Delaware Valley School District is reforming the way cyber charter schools, which are growing in popularity, are funded.

The cost is unfair to school districts because the organizations that run the programs are charging fees that don’t reflect the true cost of providing an education, said Superintendent John Bell at a recent school board meeting.

"Cyber schools charge the school district based on the cost to educate the student, although they don’t have the same costs as brick and mortar schools, like transportation, lighting, heating, and other maintenance," he said.

This results in huge differences in what districts pay, he said. And the providers are making money, although the same education is provided to all.

“They love to get the rich school districts near Philadelphia because they can make huge amounts of money,” said Bell.

The cost of cyber classes can be between $18,000 to $20,000 per student. Educating students in a brick-and-mortar school in the Delaware Valley School District costs about $9,000 per student per year. And with more parents deciding on cyber school for their kids, the costs have gone up dramatically. The figure in 2009-10 school year was about $876,000.

“Last year, $1.1 million of the budget went to cyber schools,” Bell said.

In addition, the cost is higher for students in Special Education programs.

In an effort to regulate school funding, the new governor, Tom Wolf, is proposing a flat cyber-schooling rate of $5,900.

“This would be a huge savings compared to the current $9,000,” Bell said.

Meanwhile, the district decided to start its own cyber school rather than pay outside providers. The school still comes to students through the Internet or television, but DV now pays only $3,000 per student to their chosen provider.

Bell said he doesn’t have a problem with parents and students choosing home school. But, he said, there’s a difference between traditional home schooling and the new cyber schools. Home schools have established regulations, groups, and curriculums, and students educated this way do much better in tests than cyber school students, who don’t have the same supervision. The results, he said, are very unfavorable compared to either traditional schools or home schools.

“Since the state started a new system a few years ago on a scale of 0 to 100, with 70 as pass, out of the 28 cyber schools, every one failed in the last two years," he said.

But he said he is not totally against the new education choices.

“It’s nice for kids to have options,” he said.