Technology’s rapid expansion has changed many aspects of our lives, including education. Cyberlearning, either through public-sponsored school districts or one of several private entities, has grown by leaps and bounds in the past decade.
Public school districts and private charter schools have long fought over funding and public perception. Both education outlets have merits. Both also have issues.
In the end, as long as students are properly educated and well-rounded students are molded, we should not judge what works for someone else.
Valley schools spent more than $7 million in taxpayer dollars to send public school students to private cyber schools in 2017-18. The total includes more than $1.76 million for students with special needs. Another $5.5 million is spent on students without special needs.
The reasons parents opt for cyber school — public or private — are numerous. Perhaps the social challenge is too great and bullying too prevalent to create a positive learning environment. There may be physical limitations as well.
Differences emerge on several fronts, most notably when it comes to finances. Two bills in the state legislature — House Bill 526 and Senate Bill 34 — are supported by public school officials. The legislation would force parents to pay for cyber education if families opt for private cyber schools over district-operated programs.
“They all say they’re sending the money to us, but that money is the students’,” Patricia Leighow, chief executive officer of the Bloomsburg-based Susq-Cyber Charter School said in opposition to the bills. “That follows the student wherever they should go.
“It’s a shame it comes down to dollars and cents in making decisions about the best interests of the students.”
Public school officials argue the cost-per-student totals sent to cyber academies includes money for things cyber schools don’t offer, including transportation and building costs.
Cyberschool officials offset that argument by saying some district-provided programs aren’t full-time cyber schools, only part-time platforms that lack the accountability full-time faculty provides on a daily basis.
One way or another, these students need to be appropriately educated. Whether that comes in a traditional brick-and-mortar school or in any of the new cyber outlets, it doesn’t matter.
Parents need to find out what environment works best for their children and make sure to follow through. Accountability matters and that means accountability from students, teachers and parents.