Curriculum

Cyber Learning Complicates Charter Funding

By Caroline Hendrie — January 15, 2003 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

In the decade after Minnesota passed the nation’s first charter school law in 1991, states typically made no distinction for funding purposes between students taught in classrooms and those who learn mainly at home.

So policymakers were often caught off guard when schools catering to home- based learners came forward to claim a share of the public education pie. But with distance learning increasingly going digital, funding for charter schools without walls is becoming an issue that is hard to ignore.

First came passage in 2001 of California’s law curbing funding for nonclassroom-based charters. Then Pennsylvania lawmakers enacted new rules last spring targeting online charter schools, amid funding battles that had embroiled many school districts and the state education department.

In Ohio, the governor signed a bill last week that imposes new funding restrictions on cyber charters and orders a yearlong study of how those schools should be financed. And the Wisconsin state affiliate of the National Education Association is mounting a legal challenge to that state’s first major virtual charter school, in part over funding issues.

“People are definitely looking at that handful of places to see how they deal with all the issues with these schools,” said Todd M. Ziebarth, a policy analyst specializing in charter schools at the Education Commission of the States, based in Denver.

Meanwhile, groups including the Center on Education Policy, in Washington, and the Southern Regional Education Board, in Atlanta, among others, have begun offering policymakers advice about how to respond to the rapid rise of virtual schooling.

“I’m glad to see people seem to say there’s a good reason to do it, now how should we do it?” said Barbara Dreyer, the chief executive officer of Connections Academy, a subsidiary of Baltimore-based Sylvan Learning Systems that operates virtual charter schools in Colorado and Wisconsin.

‘Raiding Our Coffers’

Ms. Dreyer is among those who argue that virtual charters need as much money as their bricks-and-mortar counterparts, so that high-quality models can thrive. But other observers, including many teachers’ unions, say some operators of nonclassroom-based charters are walking away with far too much money.

“These people are coming in and raiding our coffers,” said Sen. Teresa Fedor, a Democratic lawmaker in Ohio who is a strong ally of the unions.

Ohio’s nonpartisan legislative office of education oversight will be exploring the issue this year as it prepares a report on cyber-charter financing—an effort that Stephen J. Ramsey, the director of the Columbus-based Ohio Charter Schools Association, said he welcomes.

“There has been too much tendency to make uninformed guesses,” he said. “It’s time for us to get some real facts and figures.”

In response to past disputes over per-pupil payments, Ohio’s new law also requires that online charter schools get students’ distance-learning equipment up and running before counting those students for funding purposes, and to report enrollment monthly instead of twice per year.

In Pennsylvania, which has eight virtual charter schools, the state education department now has exclusive authority for granting charters to such schools, a move aimed at bringing closer scrutiny to both the financial and programmatic details of such ventures. A panel of department staff members is currently weighing proposals for five new virtual charters.

Coverage of technology is supported in part by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

Events

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
Strategies for Incorporating SEL into Curriculum
Empower students to thrive. Learn how to integrate powerful social-emotional learning (SEL) strategies into the classroom.
Content provided by Be GLAD
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
School & District Management Webinar
Leadership in Education: Building Collaborative Teams and Driving Innovation
Learn strategies to build strong teams, foster innovation, & drive student success.
Content provided by Follett Learning
School & District Management K-12 Essentials Forum Principals, Lead Stronger in the New School Year
Join this free virtual event for a deep dive on the skills and motivation you need to put your best foot forward in the new year.

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

Curriculum Outdoor Learning: The Ultimate Student Engagement Hack?
Outdoor learning offers a host of evidence-based benefits for students. One Virginia school serves as an example how.
7 min read
Students from Centreville Elementary School in Fairfax, Va., release brook trout they’ve grown from eggs in their classroom into Passage Creek at Elizabeth Furnace Recreational Area in the George Washington National Forest in Fort Valley, Va. on April 23.
Students from Centreville Elementary School in Fairfax, Va., release brook trout that they’ve grown from eggs in their classroom at a creek in Fort Valley, Va., on April 23.
Sam Mallon/Education Week
Curriculum Opinion Classical Education Is Taking Off. What’s the Appeal?
Classical schooling is an apprenticeship to the great minds and creators of the past, enabling students to develop their own thinking.
9 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Curriculum Download For Earth Day, Try These Green Classroom Activities (Downloadable)
16 simple ideas for teachers and their students.
Earth Day Downloadable 042024
iStock/Getty
Curriculum Photos PHOTOS: Inside an AP African American Studies Class
The AP African American studies course has sparked national debate since the pilot kicked off in 2022. Here's a look inside the classroom.
1 min read
Students listen to a lesson on Black fraternities and sororities during Ahenewa El-Amin’s AP African American Studies class at Henry Clay High School in Lexington, Ky., on March 19, 2024.
Students listen to a lesson on Black fraternities and sororities during Ahenewa El-Amin’s AP African American Studies class at Henry Clay High School in Lexington, Ky., on March 19, 2024.
Jaclyn Borowski/Education Week