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How does the performance at PA Cyber compare to traditional schools?

Comparing performance at cyber schools to traditional schools
Comparing performance at cyber schools to traditional schools 03:16

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Cyber charter schools are under fire. Arguing they don't have the same expenses as brick-and-mortar schools, the governor and the Democratic state legislators want to cut their funding, capping tuition payments at $8,000 a year per student -- a limit PA Cyber head Brian Hayden says will result in massive layoffs and cripple their operations.

KDKA-TV's Andy Sheehan: "Can you provide what you believe is a firm level of education at $8,000 a student?"
Hayden: "No. No."
Sheehan: "You can't?"
Hayden: "That's like a 40 percent cut in our revenues."

Funding has always been an issue. Since cyber instruction is online, critics argue they don't have to pay for things like building maintenance, sports teams and facilities or police and security. In Midland, PA Cyber has six buildings, including a beautiful, $10 million administrative headquarters, but no students are present and most teachers work from home.

Hayden argues PA Cyber is a full-service school and offers parents who are dissatisfied with their school district a choice. But when compared to head-to-head academically, PA Cyber, like other cyber charters, lags behind brick-and-mortar districts in the state.

According to the latest assessments, only 31 percent of PA Cyber students scored proficient or advanced in the English language arts compared to 54.5 percent statewide. And only 12.8 percent reached those standards in math compared to 38.3 percent statewide.

But Hayden says the scores reflect the fact many students transfer into PA Cyber because they were already underperforming in their home district. And PA Cyber is tasked with bringing them up to speed.

"Does that excuse the low test scores? Absolutely not. And I don't want it to appear that way, but I also don't like the idea that we're compared with a school district that may have 1 or 2 percent change of students throughout the year or throughout the years compared to what's very typical in a cyber charter school."

And Hayden says parents see progress and tend to keep their students in PA Cyber through graduation.

"For the families that come here, if they did not believe that this education was a quality education and provided their students with the opportunity to do well, to succeed, to move on to whatever they want to do post-high school, they could leave like that," Hayden said.

But that bill to cap cyber school tuition at $8,000 has passed in the state House of Representatives and is now in the state Senate. Gov. Josh Shapiro says he will sign the bill if it passes there.

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