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Published in Print: April 10, 2002, as A State Capitals Roundup

A State Capitals Roundup

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Pa. Releases Funds to Cyber Charter School

Pennsylvania education officials will allow a troubled and cash-strapped cyber charter school to remain open after it promised to make changes.

Under a March 28 agreement in the state's lawsuit against the K-12 Einstein Academy Charter School, the state will release $3.4 million to the school. State Secretary of Education Charles B. Zogby withheld the aid in January after complaints by parents about the school. ("Short on Funds, Cyber School Awaits Ruling," March 20, 2002.)

Mr. Zogby ordered an investigation into the school's operations as part of the agreement last month.

Within 45 days, the school must, among other terms, draw up individualized education plans for its special education students and relocate its offices from Philadelphia to the Morrisville school district, which chartered the school. Einstein's charter may be revoked if the school fails to meet these terms. The online school has been accused of not providing Internet access or textbooks to its 1,900 students. Einstein also has not paid more than 30 teachers for several weeks, and its Internet provider terminated service because school officials didn't pay $80,000 in bills.

The school faces a wave of lawsuits, some by school districts trying to stop students from enrolling in the school.

—Rhea R. Borja

Arizona Charter in Jeopardy Over Religious Instruction

An Arizona charter school could lose state funding, following allegations that it is promoting religion to students.

The Northwest Charter Academy in Glendale, Ariz., has 90 days to prove it has stopped religious activities, or a public hearing will be held over the school's future. Members of the state board of education voted unanimously last month to start the process of revoking the state's contract with the school.

Because the largely independent charter schools are publicly financed, they're barred from promoting religion just as regular public schools are. The K-12 school serves about 300 students and received $1.1 million in taxpayer money this school year.

The Associated Press reported that when state officials visited the school after receiving complaints, they found the principal leading a prayer and quoting from the Bible at a student assembly, and teachers and students using religious textbooks. School and state education officials did not return phone calls seeking comment.

—Lisa Fine

April Aid to Kansas Schools Cut by Half

Kansas administrators have placed their school districts on fiscal diets upon learning the state is paying just half the monthly state aid allocations for April.

The state's 304 districts were owed $136 million on April 1, but received only $68 million because state coffers are empty, said Don Brown, a spokesman for Gov. Bill Graves, a Republican.

Gov. Bill Graves

When the additional money is available, it will be given to schools, Mr. Brown said, but there is no indication when that will be.

"This is a cash flow problem," Mr. Brown said. "We recognize this is a hardship for schools. That's why the governor is strongly advocating more revenue sources for them next year."

No budget shortfall is predicted this fiscal year, he added.

Meanwhile, school administrators may be struggling to meet payrolls, said Jim Hays, a research specialist at the Kansas Association of School Boards. Most Kansas districts receive more than half their funding from the state, he said.

—Julie Blair

Challenge to Philadelphia Takeover Stalls in Courts

A federal judge has refused to hear the Philadelphia City Council's challenge to the state's takeover of city schools, saying the matter should be heard in state court.

In a ruling March 27, U.S. District Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter said the state courts, rather than the federal courts, should consider the lawsuit's questions about the constitutionality of Pennsylvania's takeover law.

The City Council and community members claimed in the lawsuit that the state takeover violates the city's home-rule charter.

A separate lawsuit filed in state court by a coalition of labor and community groups, challenging the constitutionality of the takeover law, has been dismissed without comment. Another suit filed by labor and community groups contends that hiring Edison Schools Inc. to provide services to the district would violate the state's conflict-of-interest law. That suit is pending.

Alice W. Ballard, one of the lawyers representing the City Council in its lawsuit, said Judge Buckwalter's ruling would be appealed.

—Catherine Gewertz

Vol. 21, Issue 30, Page 16

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