Monday, February 11, 2008

State Legislator Bill on Cyber Charter Schools Funding

Beyer Cyber Charter Bill Approved by Education Committee

Following a robust discussion, the House Education Committee today voted to send House Bill 446 to the floor for debate announced its prime sponsor, Rep Karen Beyer (R-Lehigh/Northampton).

“I am very pleased that my committee colleagues voted to send this legislation to the full House,” said Beyer. “After a full set of public hearings that brought input from everyone involved in this issue, and after implementing changes from the original version, I am pleased that this bill will get a full and fair debate. I look forward to its passage.”

The legislation is designed to bring the oversight and funding of cyber-charter schools under the umbrella of the Department of Education. The bill would:§iontree=2&itemid=191

Karen D. Beyer (Republican)
Lehigh County (Part)
Northampton County (Part)

Candidate Positions

The Truth and Karen Beyer
June 17th, 2005

Without Apology
October 9th, 2003

Monday, November 06, 2006
Minger Upset in 131st? Incumbent Beyer Dishing Out the Dirt

Cyber-school empire under attack
Beaver County educator fighting grand juries, suits and legislators
Sunday, March 18, 2007
By Jonathan D. Silver, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Beyond contending with the grand jury investigation and the Rodis lawsuit, Dr. Trombetta has been targeted by a foe in Harrisburg, state Rep. Karen Beyer, R-Lehigh, a former school board president who is on the House Education Committee.

Ms. Beyer said she has based some of her conclusions on discussions with Mr. Barney, whom she described as a "whistle-blower."

Ms. Beyer said she told Dr. Trombetta. "Nick, you continue to operate, I have no problem with what you do. I'm not trying to ban cyber charter schools. I'm trying to get a handle on the money."

Dr. Trombetta said if anything, Ms. Beyer's criticisms have helped enrollment at the school by generating publicity.

"We have invited Rep. Beyer to come to Midland and learn about the high quality education we provide to over 6,000 students across the state of Pennsylvania. She has refused to take us up on that offer and continues to mischaracterize our work and our mission," Dr. Trombetta said.

"We remain at a loss why she is not interested in learning about what we are doing before making judgments. Other elected officials have done so and come away with a clear understanding that the work being done here is meaningful and important to many families across the Commonwealth and that we represent the future of public education."

Ms. Beyer has introduced legislation to tighten financial controls on cyber charter schools and cut tuition. She has written letters to both the state's attorney general and auditor general requesting investigations of Dr. Trombetta.

Ms. Beyer claims that the contract between the cyber school and NNDS and the funding of the performing arts center represent improper uses of taxpayer money.

"Those dollars were assigned to the students to use for their education. They weren't assigned to build a performing arts center," particularly one that tuition-paying students on the other side of the state don't have access to, she said.

As for NNDS, Ms. Beyer said, "He's taking these tuition payments and starting up some subsidiary business with the purpose of creating business out of the state." NNDS sells services to 33 clients other than Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School, including cyber charter schools in Ohio and New Mexico.

"He's required the utilization of taxpayer resources to execute his big, huge plan, whatever that ultimately is," Ms. Beyer said. "He wants to be the king of cyber schools, and I'm here to tell Mr. Trombetta he's not going to be the king of cyber schools with taxpayer money, period."

Pa. cyber school debate unites school boards, teachers' union
The Associated Press

HARRISBURG, Pa. - The lobbying groups for Pennsylvania school boards and public school teachers don't often see eye-to-eye on education policy.

But they agree on the need for the state to more strictly regulate cyber charter schools , which enable students to learn at home, using the Internet to connect to teachers and classroom materials , and take on the full burden of paying for them.

A bill that would require the state to fund cyber schools and limit the amount of tuition the schools can charge has the support of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association and the Pennsylvania State Education Association, the state's largest teachers union.

That makes cyber school administrators uneasy. Pennsylvania has 11 cyber schools that enroll 17,000 students.

"If we have to fight against their heavy lobbying efforts, where they have dozens of people that can meet with legislators all day on Capitol Hill ... and our message doesn't reach them in time, I believe some very dangerous legislation could be passed," said Jim Hanak, chief executive officer of Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School, a West Chester-based cyber school.

The legislation sponsored by Rep. Karen Beyer, R-Lehigh, calls for the state Education Department to pay for cyber schools, but would limit the amount of tuition the schools can collect to a range of $3,000 to $5,000 per pupil, depending on a school's enrollment.

Under the state's 1997 charter school law, school districts must pay tuition rates that are equivalent to roughly 75 percent of the state and local tax dollars they spend per pupil , an amount that varies widely from district to district. Those rates apply to children enrolled in cyber schools and more traditional "bricks and mortar" charter schools.

School boards have long have questioned whether the current charter school funding formula reflects the true cost of educating cyber school students, since the schools don't need to pay for transportation or the cost of maintaining school buildings.

Bill would limit funding to cyber schools
Daily American Staff Writer
Monday, August 20, 2007 2:16 AM EDT

School districts across the state are deciding if they want to support a bill that would decrease the amount of money given to cyber charter schools.

About 50 school districts have approved resolutions supporting House Bill 446.
The bill, introduced by Rep. Karen Beyer, R-Lehigh and Northampton, would transfer funding responsibility for cyber charter schools to the Pennsylvania Department of Education. It would also require greater accountability for the online schools.

“Essentially it's an accountability bill,” Beyer said. “They are 100 percent taxpayer (funded) schools. The bill would also call for a statewide tuition rate for all students who attend cyber schools. It should be uniform in the way education is delivered. There should be the same costs as a traditional brick-and-mortar school.”

Cyber charter schools provide lessons via computers and the Internet. Cyber students participate in their homes or locations other than a classroom, according to the Pennsylvania School Boards Association Web site.

Inside Today's Bulletin
Cyber Charter Schools Panic Over Funding
By: Bradley Vasoli, The Bulletin

A bill that would shift the responsibility of financing cyber charter schools from school districts to the state treasury has lagged in the state House Committee on Education, but its sponsor, Karen D. Beyer (R-Lehigh and Northampton), has offered the measure (House Bill 446) as an amendment to various bills that have passed out of committee and awaits the bill's consideration this summer or fall.
It's a controversial bill among some, but not among teachers and administrators at Pennsylvania's 11 cyber charter schools that educated well over 13,000 students last year, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE). They are categorically opposed to it because its cuts in funding are so trenchant that cyber charters will likely not have the resources to continue.

Pension perk assailed as 'abuse of the system'
A law lets school retirees stay on the job, collecting both paychecks and pensions. How many do? Nobody knows.
By Dan Hardy

Inquirer Staff Writer

...State Rep. Karen Beyer (R., Lehigh), a former school board member and a member of the House Education Committee, said she planned to propose a law to stop what she calls "an abuse of the system."

Cases such as Burke-Stevenson's and Baillie's, she said, are "double-dipping - if it looks, walks and quacks like a duck, it is. You can't get away from it."

Experts say it is unclear how much the practice costs the retirement system; it depends on individual circumstances, and PSERS doesn't keep track.

What is clear: School employee pensions are a large and growing expense to taxpayers and are "about to become a truly burdensome expense to most school districts," a Pennsylvania School Boards Association study said this year...

Posted on Thu, Jan. 31, 2008
Interim chief of schools gets pension while on staff
By Susan Snyder
Inquirer Staff Writer

...The Philadelphia School District's interim chief academic officer, who is also the newest candidate for CEO, draws an annual pension of $36,900 in addition to her yearly salary of $231,394, records show.
The arrangement for Cassandra W. Jones, 56, is allowed under a state law that says employees can draw a pension while earning a salary if their employers determine that their departure would create an emergency or if there is a shortage of qualified replacements.

The arrangement is not unique. The Inquirer reported last month that hundreds of school administrators and other employees - nearly 900 of them in the Philadelphia School District alone - are working while collecting pensions. Most of them are substitute teachers or short-term employees.

The practice has come under question by both state lawmakers and the state retirement agency in recent months.

State Rep. Karen Beyer (R., Lehigh), a former school board member and a member of the House Education Committee, said last night that she is preparing to propose legislation that would place restrictions on the law's use for administrative positions. School districts would have to show that a real emergency exists, she said...

Hundreds of school retirees collecting paychecks and pensions

Wednesday, December 19, 2007 11:47 PM EST

PHILADELPHIA — Hundreds of retired Pennsylvania school administrators and other school employees have collected paychecks in addition to their pensions, according to a published report.

Critics say the practice is an abuse of a state law that is supposed to be used only to fill vacancies in emergency situations.
Supporters of the 2004 law, including the Pennsylvania School Boards Association and the state’s Public School Employees’ Retirement System, say allowing retired school employees to continue working for as long as a year after their retirement helps schools fill unexpected vacancies or difficult-to-fill jobs.

But state Rep. Karen Beyer, a former school board member who serves on the House Education Committee, told The Philadelphia Inquirer that the practice often amounts to “double-dipping” and she plans to introduce legislation to stop such abuses.

“If it looks, walks and quacks like a duck, it is,” the Lehigh County Republican told the newspaper.

Friday, February 8, 2008
Notes from the Week that was
Mitt Romney calls it Quits...

Duck hunting in the 131st...

Drake Minder is going to give it a go against Karen Beyer in PA's 131st House seat...

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