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Charter School Participation Increases in Upper St. Clair

The superintendent expressed frustration Monday night.

The Upper St. Clair School Board reviewed the increasing costs of cyber charter and charter schools Monday night.

In 2007-08, the district had to pay more than $80,000 in charter school tuition for 10 Upper St. Clair students.

In 2011-12, the district had to spend more than $285,000 in charter school tuition for 29 Upper St. Clair students.

Two of the students in 2011-12 were in special education cyber charter school programs.

Home-schooled students switching to cyber schools might be attributing to the increase of charter school students in Upper St. Clair, Superintendent Patrick O'Toole said.

The district must pay tuition for the students who decide to go to charter school instead of Upper St. Clair schools, according to Upper St. Clair School District administrators. The district also loses out on state funding for the charter students.

O'Toole expressed frustration—calling it a "broken funding structure."

"Then a lot of that money goes to (charter school) advertising to recruit more students," he said.

Charter students must also be allowed to participate in Upper St. Clair School District athletics.

The charter school tuition rates are established by the Pennsylvania Department of Education each year, and are based on each school district's finances, according to the USC administrators.

The board reviewed the numbers while preparing for the 2013-14 school budget.

Related Content: Patch Poll: Should PA School Districts Revoke Charters of Underperforming Charter Schools?

Lynne Bateson February 14, 2013 at 03:40 PM
I am sure I am in the minority, but I am happy charter schools are an option. Some children and adults for that matter, do not thrive in a conventional school setting. I did not know that the school sent tuition to the charter schools. I think this is fantastic, parents who do not have the means for private school have the option of sending their child another route maximizing potential. I feel for the USC board because I am sure there is no real way to anticipate how many students will be going another route so budgeting nightmare! Maybe USC should offer a cyber school option and this will keep the money in the district.
Robert Ritter February 14, 2013 at 04:26 PM
Kurt - In four years the number of students in charter schools went from 10 to 29 = 200% increase. Houses in Deerfield Manor are languishing on the market, and do not seem to be selling for the asking prices; I am not confident I could sell my house for what I paid. But (regardless of the health of the USC RE market) that is one of the larger arguments for charter schools, that students should not be trapped by geography. If the public school is not meeting the needs of my child, I should not have to uproot my life in search of a different school. The rich have always had "school choice" but the middle class have not. This system simply levels the playing field.
Roger February 14, 2013 at 04:27 PM
Guest, you apparently are an integral part of the education system. Quoting: "... Schools are bending over backwards more than ever to serve the individual needs of students and are still being criticized ,,,: If this to be the case, how can you explain this statement: "... in a global economy where language competency is critical, eight in 10 Americans only speak English; according to a recent report by the not-for-profit-organization ACT, only 22% of high school students met “college ready” standards in all core subjects; major employers cannot find qualified American applicants to fill job openings, ...." This is a direct quote from yesterday's story, http://upperstclair.patch.com/blog_posts/is-manufacturing-pennsylvanias-pathway-to-prosperity The statistics in that story are not unusual. Some districts are graduating barely over 50% of their students (not saying this is true of USC schools). In general, graduation rates are dismal, and many are being given diplomas from high school with proficiencies in core subjects (e.g. math, science, English) far below grade 12. Clearly, the education system is not working very well. I know, I know, ... broad brush, but applicable because school systems don't operate in isolation. People at higher education levels, and employers repeatedly tell us that our school system is not producing well-educated graduates. Can we all agree that alternatives need to be explored? [Perhaps not.]
Stephanie Alford February 14, 2013 at 05:05 PM
Traditional schools present a lot of limitations that simply don't suit a lot of families, particularly with the way technology is changing work patterns for parents. That a more flexible cyber school option is available to them is a great thing, and it makes sense that at least some of the taxes that they pay to a public school they do not attend are transferred to the public school they do attend. It's understandable that the loss of revenue is frustrating to the USC school board, and the solution lies not in trying to force these students/parents to squeeze into an education model that does not fit their lives. Rather, it is to explore and understand their needs, and then for the USC school district to be on the cutting edge of education (as ever) by taking the bold step of creating an school system with enough in-built flexibility to keep these students (and their tax dollars) at USC -- both now and as work patterns continue to change in the future.
caroline seeton February 14, 2013 at 05:10 PM
I would be interested in seeing what ages these children are removed from the district to be placed in cyber school. It is my understanding that several families did this with their kids to remove them from Fort Couch. Is that true? If so, maybe we should look at what the issues are at that school.
Michele Baum February 14, 2013 at 05:21 PM
The IB argument again? My child does not play a single sport, yet I continue to pay for stadium maintenance, equipment, bus transportation/fuel costs for travel to away games, and coach salaries. Team sports also benefit a minority of students. We moved here from another state and magnet school system that had no sports beyond intramurals paid for by the parents whose children participated -- and enrollment was highly competitive. USC is different. IB was among the chief reasons we chose to settle in USC over Mt. Lebanon or the North Hills. I'm not complaining about sports -- just pointing out that we all pay for programs that our children don't use.
Jessica Mitchell February 14, 2013 at 06:03 PM
Wait a minute, aren't Cyber Schools the main reason Streams switched to all IB? http://upperstclair.patch.com/articles/usc-administrators-recommend-making-streams-all-ib Did anyone honestly believe these two issues were related?!
Becky Brindle February 14, 2013 at 06:23 PM
Jessica M., to say that cyber schools are the main reason Streams switched to all IB, and to also source my article, is absolutely incorrect. What would be correct is to say that cyber schools are part of the reason the school board decided to keep the PYP program in Upper St. Clair School District. They thought the IB program at the elementary level would keep the district competitive and to keep the IB program at the elementary level they had to convert one of the schools to all IB.
Cheryl February 14, 2013 at 06:25 PM
Some children attend cyber schools as their only way to escape being bullied. Bullying still happens in the best of school districts.
Kurt February 14, 2013 at 06:29 PM
Robert, thanks for clarifying. So the increase in cyber schooling in USC is about 30% per year. That's pretty high growth but I wonder how that compares to the state as a whole since it seems like cyber schooling is much more prevalent than 5 years ago. Interesting comment below by Lynne Bateson regarding USC starting a charter school option and keeping the money in the district. If the money would actually stay in the district, that seems like a great idea. The model is changing, so there's no reason to keeping doing things the way they've always been done.
Glenn Robinson February 14, 2013 at 07:01 PM
To summarize a couple points made in the comments…. The USC School Board should examine the reasons parents are choosing charter/cyber schooling over the current educational offering in USC and ask themselves, where is the USCSD program lacking and what, if anything should we do about it? Pressure should be put on the state government to revamp the charter/cyber school program to build a competitive alternative education market that allows local school districts to negotiate pricing directly with the charter/cyber schools.
Jan Burke February 14, 2013 at 07:22 PM
.......and for school systems when we have no children attending any school.
Jen Kraskey February 14, 2013 at 07:23 PM
Bullying is obviously not the only reason a student would switch to a charter school - it can happen there too. Why then would a student need to/want to leave our award-winning curriculum? Not every student meets the USC mold, so it is therefore nice to have alternatives. I have a child in USC and one that travels 2 hours/day to attend a charter school, which just happens to be a better fit for her. I have always felt that you pay to play! My USC student is an athlete - I pay athletic fees. Someone has a child in IB - pay to play. It is what it is. I have no problem paying the charter school directly - lower my taxes accordingly, since my other child is not in the school district. There are obviously bigger issues with our award winning curriculum is families are looking for alternatives.
Jessica Mitchell February 14, 2013 at 08:41 PM
100% of the support for the number one reason, "students are being offered more and more options when it comes to education" discusses charter/cyber schools. This leads the reader to believe cyber/charter schools are in direct competition with the IB program, which I find to be absolutely untrue. The students in our community who are opting to go to charter/cyber schools are probably in search of an alternative form of education, not a better curriculum. I do understand that the IB program offers a competitive edge for the district, but it gives us an edge over neighboring communities, not private, parochial, charter or cyber schools. The number of students going to charter/cyber schools is only going to keep increasing, nothing the district does is ever going to change or prevent that. Some sort of regulation is needed to keep up with this educational trend.
Roger February 14, 2013 at 10:26 PM
Martin, would you make the same assessments in the first paragraph about home-schooled students? I realize the topic here is not home-schooling, but you seem convinced that keeping a student out of the public schools is not "preparing them for the world ...." Also, I wonder what basis you have for the last statement in the paragraph, "... deal with the real world ... start in school." Is this is broad view of education, or a narrow one?
Michele Baum February 15, 2013 at 06:04 PM
Many things divide the community -- like ideas about development plans for the former Consol property and whether the Rec Center is worth its cost. Then there are the things that have always divided students: - family prominence - wealth - physical attractiveness - athletic prowess - popularity/talent Neighbors had kids going to different schools in my hometown. They were called parochial schools and the public school system had to bus those kids, too. If IB went away, people would find some other USCSD issue to disagree about. Heck, the whole country is divided. That's human nature.
PK3 February 15, 2013 at 11:15 PM
O'toole nor the USCSB are for educational options Becky. 14 years ago or so IB was offered as another option in this school district and now it is taking over the district starting with Streams the rest are to follow. The only choice the USCSD wants is what they think is best (IB) all else is eliminated over time. Can we get an attorney to help the USC people? Like the liberals got the ACLU and other attorney's to sue their way to get their way.
PK3 February 15, 2013 at 11:19 PM
I would contact my representatives if they actual talked to the people. Maher is a joke. I have no experience with Smith.
Becky Brindle February 16, 2013 at 02:08 AM
PK3, what do you mean when you say IB is going to take over the district? You're afraid the traditional classroom program is no longer going to be offered?
Glenn Robinson February 16, 2013 at 02:41 AM
PK3, the answer is simple. Vote new board members in.
Mark Trombetta February 16, 2013 at 02:51 AM
Let me help here. USC gave a multi-million dollar asset [Streams School] to the IBO which is not accountable to the residents of USC. When the IBO threatened to revoke the IB charter unless Streams was all IB, the school board gave in. Do you think the IBO will stop there? Pick which school [Boyce or Ft Couch] is next. The real probelem will be when they want the high school. There is only one. USC gets what it voted for: an expensive educational system led by an out of control school board with an insatiable appetite for our money. IB can best be described as a cult following with no soul. No added value for a moniker which means absolutely nothing. Fluff over real substance.
Oren Spiegler February 16, 2013 at 12:56 PM
In this thread, "PK3" refers to State Representative John Maher as "a joke". I would not use that terminology, but I would note that he only comes out of the woodwork at election time to request petition signatures and money. One would not know that he exists at other times. He does not keep in contact with constituents by any means nor ever explain his positions in editorial commentary. This is in stark contrast to activist, involved leaders like Philadelphia State Senator Daylin Leach. (I do not adhere to the views of Senator Leach on fiscal matters nor in his desire to maintain a highly-compensated, bloated General Assembly; I am with him on most social issues (the push for legalization of marijuana, treating gay men and women like human beings with the respect and rights they deserve, and enacting reasonable restrictions on the right of individuals to acquire an arsenal of weapons)). My experience with Representative Maher over the eleven years in which I have been his constituent is that he is not accustomed to criticism and does not accept it.
Oren Spiegler February 16, 2013 at 01:20 PM
Glenn Robinson's suggestion that new Board members be voted in is a good one for the many that are dissatisfied with how things are going in the District. The problem, according to a member of the Republican Committee of Upper Saint Clair, is that good people do not run, thus we get what we have gotten for years, the Petersen/Bolas high-tax, high-expenditure model, which maintains a stranglehold over the Board and the community. The days of fiscal responsibility under the leadership of Dr. Mark Trombetta, Dr. Bill Sulkowski, Dr. Daniel Iracki, Attorney Carol Coliane, and others, is over, and one cannot expect any of them to take up the mantle of Board leadership again after all of the years that they selflessly devoted to the community. The responsibility of being a Board member is enormous and requires a great commitment of time. It is not suited to most 40-hour-per-week (or more) middle class workers who are not able to accept a second career as an unpaid Board member. It is something which fits for those who do not work outside the home, or for one that is an independent businessperson. The common thread for most members of the Board is that they are wealthy, enabling them to volunteer. This certainly causes a lack of identification with the middle class members of the community who must adhere to a budget. Those members of the community are forgotten, and in the minds of some, not welcome here.
Brian Eccher February 16, 2013 at 04:38 PM
You need to be wealthy to volunteer? There are many adults who work 40+ hours a week and still find time to volunteer multiple days a week. The backbone of USC is volunteers from sports to education that invest their time. In fact the former Board members who you cited are all in the professions which are demanding of both one’s time and stress level, but they found the time. I find the constant referring to Board members as “wealthy” as an exaggeration and not relevant to the discussion. This community is fortunate to have successful individuals, but that does not translate into lack of sensitivity over taxes. I find the continuous characterization of the Board as spend-happy and uncaring about the impact of their decisions wearisome – these individuals live in our community, pay the same taxes, and may not even have children in the school system. Perhaps the majority of citizens are happy with USC and understand there are compromises that must be made, but at the end of the day believe those who are willing to invest their time on the school board have the best intentions to keep USC strong.
PK3 February 16, 2013 at 10:41 PM
Brian, Mrs. Stern made the comment when the USCSD raised taxes (not the most recent increase) and I am paraphrasing. The tax increase amounts to a pair of sneakers which most people can afford. Amy B asked for my vote 8 years ago on Election Day I responded why should I vote for you and she went on to cite numerous items that makes USC schools successful. She didn't mention parents or the tax payers . Their actions demonstrate the need for power and personal wins. Most desire national,state and local awards for school directors also , IB awards too.
Roger February 17, 2013 at 12:59 AM
Guest, still waiting for an answer to the question posted to you. Thank you.
Roger February 17, 2013 at 01:00 AM
Martin, still waiting for answers posed to you about comments you made in your post. Thank you.
Cyberschool Mom February 18, 2013 at 10:44 AM
When people start complaining about the cost of cyber schools it sounds as if they are more concerned about money that the success of students. I took my kids out of public school because they were being held back. Now they are able to work at their own pace and we still have full time access to qualified teachers who keep us (parents and students) accountable, teach on line courses and grade assignments. The public school system does not work for every child and tax paying parents should be given an option to find something that works for their child rather than be forced into a monopoly that has very little incentive to change the way they do things. As for advertizing, our principle at PAVCS just explained to us last week that the state requires that there is proof of equal access to the school - so they HAVE to advertize, by law.
bob balmer February 18, 2013 at 12:52 PM
Becky, In this neighborhood everything is connected to IB
Eric Fischer March 21, 2013 at 07:10 PM
What about the cafeteria at the high school being called a "nutrition" center? I don't understand that at all? Probably because of the IB program or the charter schools.

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