Did you know Spotlight PA is a nonprofit? Learn more about our nonpartisan journalism »
Skip to main content
Main content

Lawmakers split on cyber charter school reform

Changing technology and the COVID-19 pandemic caused Pennsylvania students to flock to cyber charter schools.

The logo of PA Post, a free daily newsletter delivering the top news from across Pennsylvania every day.

A daily newsletter by The logo of Spotlight PA, an independent, nonpartisan newsroom producing investigative journalism for Pennsylvania.
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen

Friday, July 21, 2023
School rules, gun violence, capital trial, official reprimand, police shuffle, POTUS in Philly, and a Pennsylvania history Twitter blunder.

Changing technology and the COVID-19 pandemic caused Pennsylvania students to flock to cyber charter schools, but the decades-old state rules that govern them lack even basic accountability measures.

Now there is a bill making its way through the legislature that would cap the amount of money public school districts send to cyber charters and require the latter be more transparent about their inner workings.

Legislators on both sides of the aisle agree the regulations need to be updated, but they’re a long way from consensus.

Read Spotlight PA's full report: Pa.’s latest attempt to regulate cyber charter schools would lower payments, increase transparency.

THE CONTEXT: Public school districts sent nearly $1 billion to cyber charter schools in the 2020-21 school year, according to Research for Action, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit that studies education policy.

The bill that recently passed the state House with 20 Republicans and all Democrats on board would significantly change the funding scheme. Money would still come from a student's home district, but the measure would regulate and differentiate amounts for special education and non-special education students. Public schools have long said they are required to send more money than cyber charters use to educate the former.

House Bill 1422 would also foist new transparency requirements on traditionally opaque cyber charters, including making them subject to the requirements of Pennsylvania's Sunshine Act and making board members subject to state ethics and financial disclosure standards.

But disagreements about the particulars remain, and the lawmaker who chairs the state Senate committee through which the bill must pass, state Sen. David Argall (R., Schuylkill), has not committed to moving it.


"Things happen."

Lancaster County President Judge David Ashworth on the mistaken jailing of Kirsten O’Connell, 20, under an erroneous arrest warrant

Support vital journalism for Pennsylvania: The future of local news is in your hands. Donate now to Spotlight PA.
» Expecting budget boost, PASSHE freezes tuition, via TribLIVE

» Fetterman traces depression back to U.S. Senate debate, via Time

» Grove expects budget idled until at least October, via PoliticsPA

» Who Pa. state lawmakers follow on Twitter, via Legislata

A feather and stone, as spotted by Joe P. in Philadelphia's Wissahickon Park. Have a photo you'd like to share with the whole state? Send it to us by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.

A grey and gold feather on gray and gold stone.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.STRAY BULLETS: Laron "LJ" Williams was fatally shot outside his Philadelphia home on his 12th birthday. His family says city officials have made no contact in the month since. “I was holding him, and he looked at me and smiled,” LJ's aunt, Elaine, told The Inquirer (paywall) of his last moments. "Then he took a few deep breaths. And then he stopped." Another person said "this whole block needs therapy."

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.TREE OF LIFE: The capital trial of convicted Tree of Life gunman Robert Bowers continued this week in Pittsburgh with jurors set to decide his fate: life in jail or death. As WESA reported, the final trial phase has been increasingly personal, with the defense focused on Bowers' troubled childhood and the prosecution focused on the many lives and families upended by his hatred of Jews nearly five years ago.
  • RELATED: How the death penalty phase of the Pittsburgh synagogue gunman’s trial might play out, via AP
Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.DA REPRIMAND: Lebanon County District Attorney Pier Hess Graf should not have been in charge of the investigation of a 2020 fatal shooting by state troopers who worked with her husband, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Disciplinary Board has ruled, via Lebanon Daily News. Graf cleared one of the troopers, Jay Splain, in a separate on-duty shooting — one of four involving him

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.POLICE REPORT: A consultant hired to conduct a police staffing study in Pittsburgh says the city has too many patrol cops. PublicSource reports the consultant, California-based Matrix Consulting, is urging the city to "shift 188 budgeted positions out of patrol ranks and into a number of more specialized and community-facing roles." But the city's new police chief is taking issue with that approach.

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.POTUS STOP: President Joe Biden was in Philadelphia yesterday to tout his economic agenda ahead of 2024. Reuters, in a preview of the speech, said Biden was set to pitch "the promise of a green economy to union workers skeptical that the solar, wind, and electric vehicle industries can deliver the same economic punch for organized labor as fossil fuel-powered refineries and power plants."
  • RELATED: Pennsylvania locomotive manufacturing workers are striking in Erie for greener jobs, via Grist
Investigative journalism that gets results: Spotlight PA's vital work depends on you. Donate now.

MOVIE DATES: Barbie and Oppenheimer hit theaters this weekend. As for the question on everyone's mind: Axios reporter Andrew Solender intuited that U.S. Sen. John Fetterman (D., Pa.) is Team Barbie and Bob Casey (D., Pa.) is Team Double Feature. But TribLIVE's Ryan Deto fact-checked the hunch. Gov. Josh Shapiro, meanwhile, is 100% "a Barbie guy."

LOCAL BAN ON FUR: Etna borough in Allegheny County has banned the sale of fur products inside its borders, WPXI reports. A spokesperson for the Humane Society of the United States said Etna is the first municipality in the state and the 14th nationwide to pass such a ban.

FAKE HOLIDAY: Pennsylvania's official Twitter account marked the anniversary of Pennsylvania becoming a state on Thursday, only it was off by months. The likely root of the confusion? An "extremely fake" Pennsylvania holiday we wrote about in our PA Local newsletter in June.

SAG STRIKE: The Hollywood actor's strike came to Philadelphia on Thursday, with Abbott Elementary stars Sheryl Lee Ralph and Lisa Ann Walter joining a protest at LOVE Park. The Inquirer live-tweeted the happening. The show is currently on pause as Ralph says they're "fighting for our art."

NAME CHECK: A Black-owned burger chain in Pittsburgh is shutting down amid a naming dispute with Hollywood heavyweight Universal Studios. Faced with legal threats, Pittsburgh Magazine reports Back to the Foodture decided against rebranding, saying it would be too costly. 

Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag. Answers submitted by 5:30 p.m. on issue date will be counted.
Yesterday's answer: Convivial

Congrats to our daily winners: Becky C., Bob C., Eric F., Julie K., Barbara F., Nola D., Vicki U., Susan N.-Z., Kimberly D., Don H., Jon W., Kim C., Jane R., Dan A., Tracy S., Elaine C., James B., Judith D., Mary S., Stacy S., Dennis M., Daniel S., Stanley J., Tom M., William Z., Craig E., Wendy A., and Joel S.
Like PA Post? Share it with a friend.

Love PA Post? Support it with a tax-deductible gift.

Forwarded this newsletter? Subscribe here.
Spotlight PA is an independent, non-partisan newsroom powered by The Philadelphia Inquirer in partnership with PennLive/The Patriot-News, TribLIVE/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and WITF Public Media.

Copyright © Spotlight PA / The Philadelphia Inquirer, All rights reserved.

Spotlight PA
PO Box 11728
Harrisburg, PA 17108-1728


You're receiving this email because you subscribed to PA Post, a daily newsletter by Spotlight PA.

This email was sent to: <<Email Address>>

Receiving too many emails from Spotlight PA?

To change your newsletter subscriptions and frequency, you can update your preferences.

To stop receiving fundraising messages, you can update your preferences and select "Opt out of Fundraising."

To stop receiving ALL EMAILS from Spotlight PA, including all of our investigations and newsletters, you can completely unsubscribe here.