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A New Look at Cyber Charter Fund Balances

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Amy Kobeta, PCCY
amyk@pccy.org, 347-607-1058 mobile

CYBER CHARTERS ARE STOCKPILING DOLLARS THAT SHOULD GO TO STUDENTS
New Report Shows PA’s Cyber Charters Are Banking Millions

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PHILADELPHIA (June 22, 2021)— New financial data uncovered by the PA Charter Performance Center shows that Pennsylvania’s cyber charter schools are sitting on $74 million in reserves, raising new questions about charter school spending and their commitment to improving student performance.

“Cyber charter fund balances are substantial, growing, and unregulated. This issue matters to school districts who are responsible for paying public cyber charter tuition and taxpayers who ultimately foot the bill,” said ML Wernecke, Director of the PA Charter Performance Center.
“Just as school districts can’t stockpile excessive reserves, Pennsylvania’s cyber charters should be required to spend their surplus balances on student improvement or give the money back to contributing school districts.”

The PA Charter Performance Center analyzed expenditure, fund balance, and federal COVID relief payments data to assess changes in financial position for cyber charter schools individually and as a sector. Key findings include:

  • The overall financial position of Pennsylvania’s cyber charters strengthened substantially in School Year (SY) 2019-2020.
  • The injection of over $200 million in federal COVID relief in 2021 will further strengthen their finances in SY2020-2021.
  • Applying the standards set in state law for Pennsylvania school districts, over half of cyber charters have held excessive fund balances over the last five years.

The PA General Assembly can enact specific measures that will prevent this financial stockpiling and weaken the flow to taxpayer dollars into cyber charter bank accounts.

  1. Adopt limits on cyber charter fund balances.
  2. Audit every cyber charter every three years, an achievable task since there are only 14 cyber charters operating in the commonwealth.
  3. The PA Department of Education should utilize the charter school renewal process to hold cyber charters accountable and improve performance.
  4. Pass cyber charter funding reform that would standardize cyber charter tuition.

The PA Charter Performance Center, a project of Public Citizens for Children and Youth, seeks to improve the quality of education, especially for at-risk students, by producing unbiased, accurate and timely information that will build momentum for the adoption of sound state-level charter school policy. Learn more at www.pccy.org/issues/education/pa-charter-performance-center/ and on Twitter (@pa_charter).

PCCY is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that works to improve the lives of children in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties by developing initiatives and advocating for quality health care, child care, public education, and family stability. Learn more on our website (www.pccy.org), Twitter (@pccyteam), and Facebook page (PCCYPage) and instagram.com/pccyphotos