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Are Charter Schools Too Costly For Wilson?

Wilson school officials question the cost, quality of on-line education.

The financial impact of charter and cyber schools, and questions about their academic quality, were front and center at Monday night’s Wilson Area School District board meeting.

As the area readies for the possible opening of a business and entrepreneurship-themed charter school in West Easton next fall, the district is examining the financial cost to the district of Wilson ASD students educated in charter, cyber and special education classes, according to Superintendent Doug Wagner.

All in all, such instruction costs Wilson $682,078 annually, Wagner estimated.

“It’s quite a hole we have to plug with money we currently have,” he told board members. “It's a concern.”

Some 33 Wilson students attend charters such as Lehigh Valley Academy to Lehigh Valley Charter School for the Performing Arts; another 30 go to various online distance education programs.

Later in the meeting, school officials questioned the quality of online academics.

“We feel that bricks and mortar is the best option,” said Avona Elementary Principal Kevin Steidle, while outlining cyber-related district goals for 2012-13. “We do try to keep kids in our buildings.”

The district wants to bring online students attending schools outside the district back to Wilson, and is planning a pilot cyber program of its own this year.

When asked by board member Charles Marsteller what prompted Wilson students to enroll in cyber education, Steidle said “issues” at school, medical problems and truancy were common factors.

The topic of charter school quality also came up.

Board member Judith Herbstreith, citing a recent Morning Call analysis, expressed concern that the commonwealth’s Department of Education is essentially massaging PSSA data to exaggerate charter schools’ achievements.

“Parents may think a charter school is performing better than a neighborhood school,” said Herbstreith, “but that may not be the case.”

Herbstreith also called attention to several controversies involving charter education that were emerging in state legislative battles.

Wilson's discussion comes weeks after the Easton Area School Board began looking at setting up its own district-based cyber school.

Anonymous October 17, 2012 at 05:36 PM
Look at the # of students that attend private/ religious schools who at most ONLY use transportation(though many dive their kids to school since many would transfer busses & pickup time is 1.5 hours before classes begin-no blame, it's just reality). We use a cyber charter for the last few years & as a retired public high school teacher I am VERY impressed. There is much accountability & I will gladly show anyone who cares all of my childs work/tests which we have to show anyone. They do MUCH more work than they ever did in "regular" school, simply because 1 to 1 help is going to get more accomplished. The teachers in cyber schools are still public school employees so to say that the education is less is not true. The online teachers are similar to any in the classroom, except they are not distracted by absences & discipline problems. I look at my child & how eager they are to move at their own pace in some areas which they excell. They do all the study island & PSSA testing that the other kids do. They're advanced. We do many group activities & sports because all work is managed well by them & completed. My observation is that kids in regular public school just really do not get as much homework as they used to because many of the students do not have parents that enforce excellence & the standard is lowered to pass kids. Ask grads how well their school prepared them. Look at results not opinions. Many see the A+ did not mean much since it came easier than it should have.
Anonymous October 17, 2012 at 05:47 PM
Also, none of the reasons given by Steidle apply to anyone I know in the district with cyber school. We have been doing this for a few years and nobody has ever asked us. Our kids are well adjusted & never missed school. I would list some of the other reasons I have heard about problems in the district (at the middle and high school level) but I will leave that for those parents to discuss if they wish. Also, I forgot to mention in my last post, that there are also other homeschoolers who are using their own approved curriculums that do not cost the district ANY money. They must submit their objectives to the district by Aug 1st, and they must get a public school teacher to evaluate their child and look over their work. I know this because I do evaluations. They must keep all their evidence through the year of what their child has done. The student has to participate in an interview with the evaluator. I wonder how many students in our middle/high school could show all of their evidence at the end of the year and then be interviewed to prove to an educator that they have retained information learned that year. Most of the students I would bet throw everything away at the end of the year OR maybe never even get back their tests due to security issues. I would suggest to ALL students to keep evidence of work/tests as a proof of what work was done. Also, NO more scheduled half days or movie days (unless the movie is 100% educational).

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