States

Short on Funds, Cyber School Awaits Ruling

By Alan Richard — March 20, 2002 3 min read

The fate of what might be the nation’s largest online charter school was scheduled to rest in the hands of a Pennsylvania judge early this week.

Leaders of the 2,000-student Einstein Academy Charter School say a March 19 hearing over the state’s effort to block its funding could yield a judge’s ruling allowing their school to tap $3.5 million in state aid that it needs to stay in business.

“I don’t see any other way to do it,” said John R. Severs, the chief administrative officer of the Morrisville, Pa.-based school.

Pennsylvania’s department of education has withheld millions of dollars from the online charter school since it began investigating parents’ complaints in January. The parents alleged that the school did not provide the adequate Internet access, textbooks, and special education services it had promised, said Beth A. Gaydos, a spokeswoman for the department.

Mr. Severs admitted that the school has its problems, but said the state shares the blame for some of them. Start-up money didn’t arrive from the state until October, he said. As a result, the school wasn’t able to provide all its services and materials to students before then, he added.

The Einstein school was founded last year by two parents who—while caring for their terminally ill child—saw the need for online, easy-access education. The school serves students all across the state, but received its charter from the Morrisville school district, which has an enrollment less than half the size of Einstein’s.

While the Einstein staff had the technology know-how to open the school, it lacked the management experience or political skill to make it thrive, said Jim Hanak, who became the school’s chief executive officer only last week.

The state could have helped the Einstein school find its footing, Mr. Severs said, by providing start-up money earlier and helping the school work through its problems. Instead, the state education department bowed to lobbying from education groups that were critical of Einstein once some of its problems were made public, he said.

The school has received about $3.8 million in state money since last fall, and employs 38 full- and part-time teachers, Mr. Severs said. The school expected to tap another $3.5 million from the state, but funding has been on hold since the end of last year, he added.

In the most recent blow to the school, its Internet service provider, Digital Freedom of Scranton, cut off service on March 8 because Einstein hadn’t paid an $80,000 bill for months of online services, said Brad Stevens, the president of the company. But, thanks to a “deluge” of offers from other providers to step in until the court decides the case, Mr. Severs said Einstein was continuing to deliver courses late last week.

State Oversight

Whether or not the school survives, its financial problems have prompted Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Charles B. Zogby to call for stricter state oversight of so-called cyber schools as the movement continues to grow

“Thousands of Pennsylvania parents already have embraced cyber charter schools as an exciting and viable education alternative,” Mr. Zogby testified last month before the state Senate education committee. “Yet, as with any new initiative, there are ways to strengthen cyber schools to make them better.”

But better oversight of cyber schools is different from regulation of charter schools, Ms. Gaydos said. The state supports charter schools, but it’s the upstart technology-based form of charter school that presents new oversight challenges.

Regardless of what happens to the Einstein school, Mr. Severs said the cyber schools movement will only continue to grow. “They’ve let the genie out of the box,” he said. “They’re not going to be able to put it back in.”

A version of this article appeared in the March 20, 2002 edition of Education Week as Short on Funds, Cyber School Awaits Ruling

Events

Jobs The EdWeek Top School Jobs Virtual Career Fair
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
How to Power Your Curriculum With Digital Books
Register for this can’t miss session looking at best practices for utilizing digital books to support their curriculum.
Content provided by OverDrive
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Embracing Student Engagement: The Pathway to Post-Pandemic Learning
As schools emerge from remote learning, educators are understandably worried about content and skills that students would otherwise have learned under normal circumstances. This raises the very real possibility that children will face endless hours
Content provided by Newsela

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

States Interactive Map: Where Critical Race Theory Is Under Attack
This national map tracks where state legislatures are attempting to limit how teachers can discuss racism and sexism in the classroom.
2 min read
States Florida State Board of Education Bans the Use of Critical Race Theory in Schools
Lessons that deal with critical race theory and the “1619 Project” are not welcome in Florida’s public schools following a state board vote.
Jeffrey S. Solochek, Tampa Bay Times
4 min read
Richard Corcoran, the Commissioner of the Florida Department of Education and Board Chair Andy Tuck listen as Dianna Greene, the Superintendent of Duval County Public Schools, addresses the board members during Thursday morning's meeting. The board members of the Florida Department of Education met Thursday, June 10, 2021 at the Florida State College at Jacksonville's Advanced Technology Center in Jacksonville, Fla. to take care of routine business but then held public comments before a vote to remove critical race theory from Florida classrooms.
Richard Corcoran, the commissioner of the Florida Department of Education, and Board Chair Andy Tuck listen as Dianna Greene, the superintendent of Duval County Public Schools, addresses board members before a June 10 vote to remove critical race theory from Florida classrooms.
Bob Self/The Florida Times-Union via AP
States Let School Officials Seek Gun Limits for Potentially Violent Students, Feds Suggest
A model state "red flag" bill would let school officials ask courts to halt students' access to guns if they are deemed a risk.
4 min read
Students protest after the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Fla.
Students protest after the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Fla.
High school students rally at the Capitol in Washington on Feb. 21 in support of those affected at the Parkland High School shooting in Florida. J. Scott Applewhite/AP
States From Our Research Center A User’s Guide to the Grading and Methodology
Here's a quick and easy guide to the grading scale and each of the indicators that go into making up the 50-state grades for school finance.
EdWeek Research Center
4 min read
Illustration of C letter grade
Getty