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As one door closes in Pa., another opens for cyber charter company

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

If you’ve watched television in the Philadelphia area recently, you’ve probably met Madison. The precocious computer science major used to be a spokesperson for Commonwealth Connections Academy, Pennsylvania’s second-largest cyber charter school.

In the 30-second spot, Madison promotes the benefits of online learning by chatting with a 7th-grade version of herself. The commercial is still airing, but now at the end of her spiel, an announcer directs parents to enroll in Reach Cyber Charter, the first new cyber charter to open in Pennsylvania since 2012.

The similarities between the commercials speak to the similarities between the schools.

Reach is managed by Connections Education LLC, a for-profit cyber charter management company with 34 schools across 28 states and a longtime player in the Pennsylvania cyber charter scene. Connections used to run Commonwealth Connections Academy, but the two split earlier this year. In April, Reach earned state approval, and suddenly Connections had a brand new cyber charter to promote.

Reach Cyber Charter is slated to enroll 500 students in grades K-9, with plans in the next five years to become a K-12 school serving 4,500 kids. Two members of the Reach Cyber Charter board used to serve on the board of Commonwealth Connections Academy, which Connections Education helped found in 2003.

Reach’s founding comes at a time of transition for Connections Education, which is a subsidiary of the global publishing giant Pearson LLC.

One school leaves, another arrives

After Connections parted ways with Commonwealth Connections Academy in February, the school rebranded itself as Commonwealth Cyber Academy (CCA) and announced it would no longer rely as heavily on Connections Education for back-office services. CCA has more than 9,000 students and has been a significant source of revenue for Connections Education. The school sent more than $55 million to Connections in 2013, according to the school’s most recent tax filings.

Read the rest of this story at NewsWorks

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