This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
A proposal with potentially dire consequences for Pennsylvania’s cyber charter schools has re-emerged in Harrisburg this session.
And one of the politicians pushing it now has a key education post in the state Capitol.
The proposal would require a family to pay out-of-pocket tuition to attend a cyber charter school if their home district offers a “cyber-based program equal in scope and content.”
Depending on its interpretation and implementation, this measure could halt the flow of millions in taxpayer dollars from traditional school districts to cyber charters. If the law applies to any school district with some sort of digital learning program, cyber charters could be in big trouble.
“I think cyber charter schools would no longer exist,” said Maurice Flurie III, CEO of Commonwealth Charter Academy, the state’s second-largest cyber charter.
The measure was formally introduced last month as Senate Bill 34. Last week, State Rep. Curt Sonney (R-Erie) announced plans to introduce a similar bill in the Pennsylvania House. Sonney has authored legislation like this in past sessions. But it’s the first time he’ll do so as chair of the House Education Committee, a position he assumed in January.
In a co-sponsorship memo, he said his bill “will encourage school districts to offer full-time cyber education programs to their students, will encourage students to enroll in these school district programs, and ultimately will result in savings for school districts.”