State rejects eight cyber charter applications
Jan 29, 2013 (The Morning Call (Allentown - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
The state Department of Education shot down applications for eight cyber charter schools, including one in Allentown.
The proposal for the Pennsylvania Career Path Cyber Charter School, which called for up to 1,050 students in sixth through 12th grades, in the city was filed by Lupe Pearce. She is the founder and CEO of the Hispanic American Organization and helped start Roberto Clemente Charter School.
In denying Career Path's application, the state said it was too closely aligned with Roberto Clemente and the Hispanic American Organization. The state called references to Roberto Clemente's operations and philosophy as "inappropriate" in its critique, which included nearly 30 reasons for the denial. The state also said Career Path would not be an independent nonprofit as required by law because three board members would be appointed by the Hispanic American Organization.
Pearce could not be reached.
In a statement Monday, Education Secretary Ron Tomalis said none of the applicants showed they would offer students a quality academic program in 2013-14. He also said all the proposals "blurred the line" between Internet-based cyber charters and brick-and-mortar charters because they would have used buildings as "learning centers."
"In addition, the financial plans presented call into question each applicant's ability to maintain a long-term, viable educational program for the benefit of Pennsylvania students," Tomalis said.
Under state law, the Department of Education has jurisdiction over granting, denying and overseeing cyber charter schools. Local school districts have those duties for brick-and-mortar charter schools.
In November, the Department of Education held hearings on the requests to open the schools for the 2013-14 school year. At the time, a legal advocacy group, Education Law Center, headquartered in Philadelphia, asked the state to put a moratorium on approving new cyber charters. The group cited cybers' costs and students' poor test scores.
Last week, state Rep. Mike Turzi, majority leader of the House, said legislation would be floated to reduce tuition costs cyber charters receive from school districts and to correct so-called "pension double dip" that allows charters to collect extra pension reimbursement.
Tim Eller, Education Department spokesman, said the decisions had been made before the legislation announcement.
"The past month has been the drafting and finalization of the official decisions," he said.
The state faulted Career Path for not having proof of insurance, outdated criminal background checks for would-be employees and little public support for its creation. The state said the school did not have software to detect student plagiarism, saying it could not rely on the discretion of teachers to catch cheating because face-to-face interaction is limited in cyber schools.
Cyber charter schools are also precluded by law from offering dual enrollment courses for students and GED classes for adults as the application claimed would be part of its mission, the state said.
Career path's proposed 2013-14 budget of $3.9 million was also filled with holes, the state said. It cited inflated revenue projections based on student tuition costs from sending districts and a lack of sufficient startup money.
Other denied applicants were: Akoben Cyber Charter School, Philadelphia; Insight PA Cyber Charter School, Delaware County; MB Resiliency Cyber Charter School, Philadelphia; Mercury Online Cyber Charter School, Dauphin County; PHASE 4 America Cyber Charter School, Allegheny County; Urban Cyber Charter School, York County; and V3 Cyber Charter School, Dauphin County.
Applicants can resubmit revised proposals or appeal to the State Charter Appeal Board.
___ (c)2013 The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.) Visit The Morning Call
(Allentown, Pa.) at www.mcall.com Distributed by MCT Information Services
[ Back To Technology News's Homepage ]