This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
On the agenda for Thursday’s School Reform Commission meeting is a resolution to approve $15 million to establish a District-run virtual school.
The District plans to release more details later this week, but Superintendent William Hite has spoken in the past of starting a cyber school in an effort to retain some of the nearly $50 million that the District now pays for more than 6,000 city students who have headed to cybers. Some of that growth has happened among students who struggled in traditional high schools.
Cyber charters in Pennsylvania have come under mounting criticism regarding their educational quality and their cost to districts. Hite has testified before the General Assembly, outlining his concerns about cyber charters. In his testimony, he forecast that the bill for cyber students would rise to $75 million by 2017.
The resolution would pay the Chester County Intermediate Unit a total of $15 million over two years to "provide educational services and supports for students." The intermediate unit runs what has been billed as one of the state’s more academically successful cybers, 21st Century Cyber Charter School.
Also on the agenda for Thursday is a resolution to approve $21,446,964 in contracts with 11 organizations to operate various alternative programs, primarily accelerated and disciplinary schools. District spokesman Fernando Gallard said that the money is a $2.5 million reduction from what was spent on such schools last year, but he said that under the agreements reached with the providers, about 100 more students will be served.