It's National School Choice Week, a week set aside to recognize the options available to families.
Held every January, the school choice week puts the spotlight on the education options for children, a movement that has been growing year after year. All k-12 options are put forward, from traditional public schools to charter and online academies.
PA Cyber is one of those online charter schools and being the Enrollment Coordinator, Sharon Hunt enrolled both her children in the school. "I was impressed with everything that they had to offer and it was an option other than traditional homeschooling and brick and mortar," Sharon tells us.
PA Cyber started in the year 2000 and now has 11,000 students across the state, 650 in Erie County alone. Hunt says, "it's just an awesome school. I see students flourish here. I see opportunities here that may not get in other schools and we are just growing and growing all the time".
The Erie Rise Leadership Academy is one of four brick and mortar charter schools in Erie. Its charter formed in 2011, offering extended day and year options and other opportunities not typical of public schools. Administrators say having those choices are important for families.
Homer Smith, Jr., Public Relations Specialist with Erie Rise, says, "as you look at those opportunities, we want parents to feel that this is the right place for them and if this isn't the right place, they have the choice to go to a public school, another charter school, or a private school".
There is no charge for families to attend these charter schools, so the financial responsibility falls on the public schools to share millions of dollars a year. Erie Public Schools Superintendent Brian Polito says the district pays $9,000 a year for traditional students and $18,000 for special education students. Polito says, "certainly, we are not opposed to competition. We think it is healthy for any system to have it. It's just how it is being done here in Pennsylvania with the funding formula, and it all comes back to the fair funding formula for me".
This year, they estimate it will cost $26 million in tuition this year. Polito says factoring in the charter school students, they are responsible for 13,700 students, but the state is only reimbursing the district for 12,000. He says it's up to the state to make a change.
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