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UASD hears charter costs

Upper Adams School District (UASD) School Board discussed charter and cyber school costs Tuesday.

Supereminent Wesley Doll brought to the board’s attention information regarding cyber charter schools and district funding Tuesday.

Discussion came following information stating that cyber schools spent millions on advertising with tax dollars, he said.

UASD does offer its own cyber school program within the district, the Canner Cyber Connection. For an UASD elementary school student to attend this is $1,500, and for grades 6 through 12 are about $267 per course, according to Doll.

In comparison, for a UASD student to attend an outside cyber charter school, the tuition rates for a regular education student would be over $12,000 and over $26,000 for a special education student.

Understanding that all students learn differently, the board discussed the complexities of charter school funding.

Board President Tom Wilson noted it costs the district “nearly twice as much not to educate the student ourselves.”

The $12,000 spent by the district to send a student to charter school is funding UASD would otherwise get from the state to utilize in basic education funding to educate that child in the district. When a student leaves UASD and goes to the charter school, the $12,000 stops and the district has to write a check to the charter school.

When looking at cyber costs, Doll noted there are districts throughout Pennsylvania that are paying different costs to attend the same cyber school.

A 2019-2020 report from the Pennsylvania School Board Association (PSBA) taskforce noted nearly 90 percent of charter school funding came from mandatory tuition payments from school districts, according to Doll.

In other words, “It’s coming from mandated tuition payments from taxpayers,” he said.

Doll said it was important to take note of the difference in tuition rates depending on what school district the student comes from and what funds are being used for these cyber schools.

“No matter the cost, the students receive the same education,” he said.

“I’ve said this multiple times in this forum, kids learn differently,” Board President Tom Wilson said. Charter or cyber schools can work better for some students, but “When 90 percent of the cost of that schooling is on the backs of local taxpayers, then something’s not right there,” Wilson said.

“All parents have a choice and I agree with that, it’s just how it’s funded is where there seems to be a disconnect,” Doll said.

The district has budgeted 1.5 million this year for cyber costs and is looking at a possible cost of $1.9 million at the end of the year, according to Doll.

“There will be a difference we have to make up at some point,” he said.

The district will continue to identify costs and a way to pay for that noting the complexities of the funding procedures, Doll said.

The 2022-2023 budget is already underway, and the administration is looking at all revenues and expenditures in relation to last year, as well as identifying capital projects and professional staff negotiations, Doll said.

“There are a number of moving parts right now,” he said.

In other business, the board welcomed new Intermediate School Nurse Jenna Glass.

Glass is also a 2015 Biglerville High School graduate.

“Welcome home,” Wilson said.

The board will next meet for a regular meeting March 15 at 7 p.m.

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A.L. Grabenstein, reporter, is a graduate of Philadelphia's La Salle University with a B.A in Communication and has been a journalist since 2016. She has reported for the Gettysburg Times and the Times Herald in Norristown, PA. Grabenstein moved to Gettysburg from Montgomery County in 2019. She was born in San Antonio, TX., and previously lived in Virginia, and North Carolina. Grabenstein is actively involved in the borough of Gettysburg and loves giving voices to the local community.

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