Discussion has increased in the Pennsylvania legislature to take another look at the high expense to local school districts paying for the tuition of students enrolled in private cyber/charter schools.

WALLENPAUPACK - Discussion has increased in the Pennsylvania legislature to take another look at the high expense to local school districts paying for the tuition of students enrolled in private cyber/charter schools.

Taxpayers in the Wallenpaupack Area School District are paying $1,063,086 this school year for 70 students to take their classes online, from home.

Another 57 students take part in a cyber school known as NOLA 19 which Wallenpaupack endorses, through the Northeastern Educational Intermediate Unit (NEIU) 19, which serves school communities in Lackawanna, Wayne, Wyoming and Susquehanna Counties.

District Superintendent Michael Silsby encourages families preferring this form of education, to enroll with NOLA 19.

During his report at the April 8 school board meeting, he noted that the state legislature is finally addressing some of the concerns the districts have.

Each school district is paying a different tuition rate for the cyber/charter schools. The state is taking a new look at the real costs of cyber/charter schools, which unlike the traditional school, does not pay for busing, cafeteria, heating and air conditioning, roof repair or many other costs.

One proposal state legislators are discussing would be to take away the requirement of school districts to pay the tuition for these students, if the district has its own cyber education program.

If a family wishes to take that alternative and picks another cyber/charter school, the funds would not follow, in that scenario.

Silsby stated by utilizing the cyber school endorsed by Wallenpaupack, the school district maintains control, the student is able to get a Wallenpaupack diploma, and its more cost effective.

“Probably the most important thing,” Silsby added, “…If you look at the results of a [private] cyber/charter school, the results have not been positive. The students have not achieved.”  Looking at PSSA scores, Keystone exams and other measures by which schools are judged for student performance, the Superintendent added, “Cyber schools have been failing woefully in those arenas.”

He stated that he understands and welcomes that that some families want an alternative educational system for their children. As an educator, he said if the family wants a cyber school option, he recommends the one offered through the school district.

The first choice, he recommended, is to stay within their school system.

Silsby noted that the cyber school advertisements tell families they offer their educational program free, but it is the local taxpayers that are paying for it.

NOLA 19 refers to Northeast Online Learning Academy, which is a consortium of NEIU 19 school districts who have partnered with NEIU 19 to provide “individuated digital learning opportunities” to their students in grades K-12.

NEIU 19’s web site states that NOLA 19 was created as a partnership with Capital Area Intermediate Unit. The academy offers many types of course from several different digital curriculum providers.