You're paying for it - you deserve to know where your money goes

Let’s get the dirty little secret out right now: Cyber Charter Schools – all Charter Schools, in fact – are paid for with your money.

Those property tax bills you pay to your local school district? Parents who choose to send their kids to Cyber Charter Schools get that money for the tuition.

All those fancy commercials you see? You’re paying for it.

All those ads at sports stadiums you see? You’re paying for it.

All those educational trips to theme parks and gift cards for parents you see? You’re paying for it.

All those mascots and RVs and giveaways you see at public events? You’re paying for it.

Just this week a “non-profit” cyber charter school invited lawmakers to join them for an end-of-the-year celebration at – yes – trampoline parks (about $30 per kid per day admission) all over the state and record videos for the schools. You’re paying for all of it.

But there’s something you’re not seeing when it comes to where your money is going when it goes to Cyber Charter Schools. In the last few years, the four biggest Cyber Charter Schools have been padding their bank accounts from just over a half-million dollars to just under a half-*billion* dollars.

What’s concerning is a lot of that increase is related to the cybers purchasing buildings and land -- which shouldn’t be a priority for online schools. 

To add injury to injury, while these private companies are raking in your dollars you’re being hit again as so many local school districts are forced to raise property taxes to make up the gap. When so many districts are struggling to maintain infrastructure it’s hard to justify the limited funds being used by a third party to buy buildings somewhere else.

You see, the Cyber Charter Schools are the ones who really have school choice – they can decide to not take kids living with disabilities, or kids facing behavior issues, or any kid who might blow the curve for the cyber with a low test score. Those kids and parents have no choice but to stay in the traditional public school, which has even less funding and resources available. 

Kids suffer, homeowners suffer – everyone suffers.

The good news is there’s another way – and that way fulfills our constitutional and moral obligation to make sure every kid has a good school and the chance to succeed with hard work.

After too many years of the state not holding up its end of the bargain on funding public schools, we finally have a spending plan that funds schools equally and according to need. This will help school districts from the largest to the smallest close the adequacy gap and give a break to property tax payers hit the hardest.

Beyond even that plan, we’re finally treating Cyber Charter Schools like the publicly funded schools they are – remember, every dollar that goes to a charter comes out of your property taxes. My bill would set a standard tuition rate statewide with reasonable increases tied to local taxes, ban advertising at public events, require charters to live up to the same transparency standards any other public school already has to meet, and, when it comes to those big bank accounts, put a limit on just how much they can have in the vault.

This is not about taking away school choice from parents; parents will still have the choice. At the end of the day, this is about transparency and oversight with the entities overseeing cyber charter schools and more importantly, full accountability with cyber schools and how they spend taxpayer dollars.

After all – you’re paying for it.