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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2023 - 2024 Regular Session


Posted: February 28, 2024 04:19 PM
From: Senator Lindsey M. Williams
To: All Senate members
Subject: Moratorium on New Cyber Charter Schools 
I will soon introduce legislation prohibiting the state from approving new privately run, publicly funded cyber charter schools.  


Students currently have the option to attend one of Pennsylvania's 13 cyber charter schools. Cyber charters generally have unlimited seats and the vast majority of school districts now also offer their own online program – providing plenty of existing capacity for families who want a virtual option.  


Unfortunately for those students, cyber charter schools consistently underperform both brick and mortar charters and district schools. Every one of Pennsylvania’s cyber charter schools has been identified as needing some level of support and improvement under the state’s accountability system. More than half are currently operated under expired charters. A recent national study found that cyber charter students’ lack of academic progress equated to their losing 72 days of learning in English language arts and 180 days of learning in math—that’s an entire school year of learning loss. 


Pennsylvanians already spend roughly $1 billion every year on tuition for our current cyber charter schools, making this one of the leading drivers of property tax increases. Tuition at these privately run, publicly funded schools is not tied to the actual cost of education, and many cyber charters bring in significantly more money than they spend on educating students.  Every new corporate managed cyber charter school diverts additional taxpayer dollars away from traditional public school districts and the students they serve.    


In a single year, it’s estimated that cyber charter schools spent nearly $17 million on advertising and promotions, such as sponsoring local fireworks nights at minor league baseball games, catering, branded giveaways, and gift cards. Despite this waste of taxpayer dollars, over half of cyber charter schools have fund reserves that are equal to a third or more of their entire annual operating budgets.  


There has long been bipartisan support for common sense reforms to strengthen charter school accountability and transparency, prevent fraud, better serve high-need students, and ensure that neighborhood public schools are not adversely affected.  


Please join me in establishing a moratorium on the proliferation of corporate managed, publicly funded cyber charter schools until common sense, bipartisan reforms that school boards and legislators across the state have been asking for can be implemented.  

Introduced as SB27