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Should Local School Districts Open Their Own Cyber Schools?

Neshannock Township School District is offering its own online learning academy to compete with other nonprofit and for-profit cyber charter schools.

Reasons vary as to why people decide to enroll their children in cyber schools.

For some, it's to avoid disciplinary and behavior problems they feel are rampant in the brick-and-mortar school. Others feel their child is not thriving in public school and choose cyber school instead of charter, private or parochial options.

Regardless of the reason, almost 30,000 students in Pennsylvania are being served by cyber schools, according to the Commonwealth Foundation. Cyber schools remain controversial, though, in terms of real student success, costs and the money they drain from public schools.

Neshannock Township School District, located just north of New Castle, seems to have come up with a way to keep that money in-house while still providing students residing in the district with an online learning option.

According to a video on the district website, Neshannock School District Online Learning Academy for grades K-12 is an "extention of district's educational offerings." Students who enroll and live in Neshannock can get support services and use district resources because they are close to home. The cyber students stay on track with instruction at the school and can participate in the district's extracurricular activities.

They even have live tutors available from 2 p.m. to 1 a.m. At the end, they also get a Neshannock diploma. But best of all for Pittsburgh area residents, they accept the state's opportunity scholarship money available to students in "failing" districts.

Posters for the online learning academy have made their way as far south as the . One has been hanging in the Kuhn's Market bulletin board in Wilkins Township for more than a week.

Woodland Hills School Board member earlier this year and said that since the 2005-06 school year, her district has shelled out more than $47 million for charter and cyber charter schools, but been reimbursed only $7.5 million of that. The 2011-12 school year cost Woodland Hills $12 million with $0 reimbursement, Reis said.

A district-run online academy might keep some of that money at home for Woodland Hills and other districts in western Pennsylvania. It would also allow students to feel more a part of the district in which they live.

Gateway School District in Monroeville already has the Gateway Cyber Academy for grades 9-12. Seneca Valley also instituted its own cyber school.

So, do you see a district-run online academy as a way for your school district to keep from losing money as the next generation increasingly turns to cyberspace vs. classrooms?

Take our poll and let us know why in the comments section.

Ed M September 13, 2012 at 10:50 AM
Charter Schools are self-managed public schools that are approved by local school districts. Cyber charter schools are approved by the PA Department of Education. Both are created and controlled by parents, teachers, community leaders, and colleges or universities. Charter schools operate free from many educational mandates, except for those concerning nondiscrimination, health and safety and accountability. Charter Schools offer alternatives in education using strategies that may save money and improve student performance. Key word - Public.
Ed M September 13, 2012 at 10:54 AM
I understand that, cc, but where is "High school administrator in Chicago steals money for IEP" in the article you quoted?
Outraged Citizen September 13, 2012 at 05:00 PM
@NE12Ukid – “mr outraged” is my father, please call me outraged. “But thanks for playing,” punctuated with a “LOL” no less! You’re truly the literary wit of your generation! I can’t wait to see what gems you bring out next. Perhaps a “See ya, wouldn’t want to be ya!” Or maybe a “don’t let the door hit you on the way out!” I can only imagine that Mark Twain, George Orwell, Thomas More and the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. can now rest easy with the knowledge you have taken up their mantle. Reading your post, it’s painfully obvious that you still don’t get it. That’s OK though, you’re just a kid. Perhaps when puberty sets in, your body goes through those awkward changes and you mature a little, you’ll get it. Until then, you and EC should be content with the kids table at Thanksgiving and let mommy and daddy have grown up time.
JustMe September 13, 2012 at 07:19 PM
I live in Baldwin and my ex husband lives in Oakdale and over the summer I registeed my child at West Allegheny for 10th grade. I have been driving my son every day to school and his dad brings him back here at night after work. My son is very happy being at West Allegheny and says you can go into the bathrooms and not have to worry about students smoking cigarettes or pot in the bathrooms and students aren't having sex in the stairwells either between classes. He say he has learned more in less in a month at West Allegheny then in a year at Baldwin. They actually have money in their budget for Gifted Students to take college classes via a computer at CCAC. I never heard of Baldwin offering anything like this for Gifted Students. I am totally convinced now that Baldwin School District needs to get new administration, school board members and teachers that want to teach and not just their for paychecks and could care less about our students educations.
cc September 13, 2012 at 07:24 PM
Brian I really wish I was at the meeting least night as I heard it was very amusing. I again called up to the Administration Building today to ask my questions but still being given the rur-a-round. Next month I am hoping to be able to make it to the school board meeting so that I can ask my questions that will totally shock some of the parents in the school.
cc September 13, 2012 at 07:33 PM
NE12Ukid - Not all charter cyber schools offer virtual classrooms in Pennsylvania. Pa Cyber School is one that offers these classes but they all don't offer them.
Heidi McDonald September 28, 2012 at 02:23 PM
I am another person with mixed feelings about this. What I'll say is that my personal experience with public high school was very difficult, it was a soul-sucking and painful experience I wouldn't wish on anyone, and if this is a way to give bullied kids an option to escape and still learn...or force bullies out of the school and into a program like this...it could make a real difference. There ARE resources available to cyberschooling families in order to provide social interactions, and, if your child lives in the school district, your child is still eligible to join extracurricular activities at the public school. Is this a magic fix? Hell, no. But...I am of the opinion that increasing options for children and families can't be a bad thing.
cc September 28, 2012 at 06:43 PM
once again ml aka ne12ukid, leona has no clue what he is talking about. then again just need to ignore the ignorant as they don't know what they are talking about
NE12Ukid September 28, 2012 at 08:52 PM
Heidi, I like your idea of sending all the bullies to cyber school! Then the rest of the kids could attend their schools in a pleasant atmosphere. We'd probably even see achievement gains with the troublemakers removed from the school buildings.
Matt A. September 28, 2012 at 11:51 PM
Parents that are pulling their children out of our school district are not the ones that have bad children, It is the good students and the students that are being picked on are being placed in cyber and charter schools. Soon it will be all the bullies, the students who could care less about learning and the trouble makers left in the school district. Can't wait to see next years school ranking now that a good portion of the smart kids were pulled out of the district.
NE12Ukid September 29, 2012 at 01:17 PM
Since several here are hell-bent on disparaging the educational opportunities at our local public high school, maybe a few moments reflecting on some of the ACHIEVEMENTS and SUCCESSES is in order: (from Patch article of recent months) http://baldwin-whitehall.patch.com/articles/photos-best-brightest-honored-at-bhs-senior-awards-ceremony#photo-10128370
cc September 29, 2012 at 09:52 PM
i JUST LOVE HOW PEOPLE DON'T HAVE CHILDREN IN THE SCHOOL DISTRICT BUT THEY ARE AN EXPERT ON EVERYTHING THAT GOES ON UP AT THE SCHOOL.
Ed M September 30, 2012 at 05:30 PM
That last post makes no sense cc and why are you yelling?
cc September 30, 2012 at 08:34 PM
Ed it makes perfect sense since there is one on here that always comments on Baldwin yet has no children in the school and is the expert on the school board, administration, what goes on at the school on a daily bases. Prints partial articles then throws in a bunch of things that comes from other articles on a totally different subject and then tries to pass it off as its writing. Everything that they print comes fofrom a union that our school isn't even part of.. We as people that lived in Baldwin/Whitehall didn't support its child either when they went to Baldwin with our taxes, according to it, shim paid the whole tuition itself for her goats to go to the school distict
NE12Ukid September 30, 2012 at 11:35 PM
cc seems to have gone completely off the deep end now, with the yelling and then the rambling nonsensical accusations. I believe this comes from cc's continuing insistence that every poster who disagrees with cc, is all ml, so far cc has said this about 8 or 9 different posters. You're probably next, EdM. If so, welcome to the imaginary world of cc.
cc October 01, 2012 at 12:51 AM
no ne12ukid your just a stalker and loves to harass. You need to go find something to do with your life and get out of mine. You the expert on nothing and down at Frish on Saturday you once again were voted a nutcase and there are people in the medical field that think the same thing. You now make names up to pat yourself on the back when everyone knows it your writing. Cant wait till your obamacare puts you in the nuthouse where you belong.
Cindy Cusic Micco October 01, 2012 at 03:24 AM
Remember the good old days when we were actually commenting on the subject of this story? It's "Should Local School Districts Open Their Own Cyber Schools?" Let's get back to the good old days.
NE12Ukid October 01, 2012 at 03:29 AM
cc, just keep harassing me on every thread on every Patch, such as the one about the football game where I had not even visited until you had to bring my name into your posts three times. Maybe this will keep you off the streets so you won't bother others this way. As for me, I really don't care anymore, your just a sad, sad, possibly disturbed person. Go ahead and keep writing your lies and saying that ml is me I am ml, I am Leona, Erin, Mike, PITT, brute, bangtime, etc etc. There is no picture of you so clear as the one you paint here of yourself. May God soothe your tortured soul.
NE12Ukid October 01, 2012 at 03:35 AM
Sounds great, Cindy. I just signed off on the one who took it off topic to rant and YELL, from here on in, s/he gets only prayers. I'd like to see each district have a cyber school program, for those students who are unable to behave in class and who disrupt the learning of others, as well as for those students whose learning style meshes best with computerized instruction. Let the districts keep their funding while adding another layer of individualizing instruction for our students. One size does not fit all in education.
cc October 01, 2012 at 01:20 PM
Sorry Ne12ukid your are the harasser and you stalk me on every article that I post on. You have no life and are a bully and thank goodness your not on the streets, then again I feel bad for your neighbors as they probably run when they see you outside.
Zandy Dudiak October 01, 2012 at 01:43 PM
Please, let's keep the personal comments off this thread. This is here to discuss the issues of interest to our community, not as a place to harass each other.
Matt A. October 01, 2012 at 02:23 PM
I have mixed emotions about the school taxes we are paying to educate the students in Baldwin/Whitehall and they keep on pulling money away from education and hiring dean of students. Cutting the budget for technology when more money should be placed into it. If parents choose to send their child to cyber or charter school because of a better education why should we be complaining. After all they are paying school taxes probably before their children were of school age and will be paying them long after their children graduate. Taxes don't stop just because you don't have students in the school. Some people don't want to be paying these taxes now as they don't have children in the district but it was ok when other peoples taxes were paying for their students to be in school.
Matt A. October 01, 2012 at 03:18 PM
SWYKLocal if you are saying that in a cyber-environment a teacher should be able to handle 40 students then the same should apply to teachers in a Brick and Mortar School. Cyber Schools have a better ratio of teachers to students to give them a better individualize education. The same cost per student in a Brick or Mortar School should be no more than 8K on what you are saying, but the school district keeps 20% of the money from the alloted amount. Baldwin is getting over 10,000 per student a year and when they have to send the money to a charter or cyber school for a student they are only sending a little over 8,000. Why shouldn't the full amount be sent with the student. That 2,000 that they are getting should be returned to the state if a child doesn't make use of joining sports or activities at the local school, but the School Districts keep the money. If I had a children today in school, I would be opting to send my children to where the ratio of student/teacher is 9 students to 1 in a cyber/charter school than then 25-30/1 ratio in a Brick or Mortar School. I would expect students on this ratio getting a much better education than at your Brick or Mortar School.
NE12Ukid October 01, 2012 at 05:21 PM
Readers choice: believe the linked and cited facts or believe the opinion above.
NE12Ukid October 01, 2012 at 05:22 PM
There is no picture of you so clear as the one you paint here of yourself. May God soothe your tortured soul.
NE12Ukid October 01, 2012 at 05:30 PM
Zandy, if editors would remove cc's post every time she starts this, there would be no need to respond to the lies and harassment, right? starting with cc 1:39 pm on Monday, September 10, 2012 cc 2:43 pm on Friday, September 28, 2012 cc 5:52 pm on Saturday, September 29, 2012 and even inserts her snarky comments using my name on articles I had not even read let alone commented on yet. She ran one poster off the PATCH and is apparently trying to do the same to others. But I see your point, and will just continue to pray for some peace for her, for whatever compels her to continue like this. As I said to Cindy: I'd like to see each district have a cyber school program, for those students who are unable to behave in class and who disrupt the learning of others, as well as for those students whose learning style meshes best with computerized instruction. Let the districts keep their funding while adding another layer of individualizing instruction for our students. One size does not fit all in education.
NE12Ukid October 01, 2012 at 10:08 PM
MattA asked: Baldwin is getting over 10,000 per student a year and when they have to send the money to a charter or cyber school for a student they are only sending a little over 8,000. Why shouldn't the full amount be sent with the student.>>> A report on 14 schools in those two counties shows that they are giving up from $6,828 to $11,000 for each of their students enrolled in cyber charter schools, an amount determined by the school's average cost per student. That amount increases to as much as $25,000 for special education students, according to the report. The tuition for a student living in one Pennsylvania district who is enrolled in a public cyber charter school might be... (continued)
NE12Ukid October 01, 2012 at 10:09 PM
... thousands of dollars different from that for a similar student enrolled at the same school who lives in another district in the state. And Pennsylvania school districts are paying a tuition rate to send a student to a cyber charter school that is often much higher than the actual cost to educate the student. The superintendents at schools that have started their own cyber schools to keep their students in house say the average cost of educating those students is around $4,200. The report suggests that the state require the districts to pay the lowest per-student cost rate in the region for each student attending other schools [the $6,828 paid by Panther Valley] OR...
NE12Ukid October 01, 2012 at 10:10 PM
...the $4,200 per student they say they pay for the service. The arguments: Districts shouldn't be paying different rates for the same service and cyber schools operate at a "fraction" of brick and mortar schools. As reported in an earlier PATCH article, any bill to reform financing of charter/ cyber charter schools should address4 key areas: 1. Limiting unassigned fund balances for charter/cyber charter schools consistent with limits already in effect for traditional public schools. 2010, auditor general reported charter schools had $108 million reserve funds. Nearly 1/2 of charter schools had reserve fund balance above public schools' limit of 12 %of annual spending. Charter balances were as high as 95 % (continued)
NE12Ukid October 01, 2012 at 10:10 PM
...•Removing "double dip" for pension costs by charter schools. School district's cost for retirement expenditures is not subtracted from expenditures in calculation that determines funding for charters and sets up a "double dip" since state law guarantees charter schools reimbursement for retirement costs. The PA Association of School Business Officials estimates between 2011-12 and 2016-17, eliminating "double dip" would save school districts $510 million. •Limiting special education funding that a charter school receives per student to its school district's total per-pupil spending for sped services. The state funding formula's 16-percent cap on school district sped population does not apply to charter schools. •Requiring year-end audits by Department of Education to determine actual costs of education services of charter schools, an annual year-end final reconciliation of tuition payments from school districts against actual costs , overpayments to be returned to the school districts.

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