Senate Bill 34 could save district money, further support cyber ed
Brit Milazzo
Monday, June 10, 2019

There’s a bill circulating in the state Senate that has the potential to save public school districts money, while also benefiting district-supported cyber education programs like that at Bald Eagle Area School District.

Introduced by Sen. Judy Schwank, Senate Bill 34, if passed, would require families to pay out-of-pocket tuition to attend cyber charter schools if their home district offers its own cyber program. The BEA Cyber Academy, under direction of program facilitator Margie Fisher, provides students within the Bald Eagle Area School District a form of alternative learning that takes them outside of the traditional classroom setting.

Anticipating an increase enrollment of BEA Cyber Academy, the program relocated into a spacious room at the high school, which could accommodate more students and is supported by Superintendent Jeff Miles.

“Twelve years ago, Bald Eagle identified the need for an alternative educational experience,” Fisher said. “During this time, we have worked hard to offer a quality program to students who need to be enrolled in online classes for various reasons.”

Confident the program is designed to meet the need of students within the district, it is still constantly being evaluated to enhance the program, while also exploring new avenues and opportunities for students, Fisher said.

“We have had an excellent track record on student graduation and their preparation for a successful future,” she said. “We have not only anticipated the need for online education, we embrace it and are committed to making it the best program in the area. I doubt any Cyber Charter school could match the personal attention that our students receive in the BEA Cyber Academy.”

In a prepared statement, Schwank said school districts are responsible for the tuition of resident students attending cyber charter schools.

“This is set at the amount of the district's net per-student share of state basic education funding,” she said. “Under my legislation, a district that offers a cyber program equal in scope and content to the cyber charter school will not be responsible for the tuition costs. Instead, tuition costs will be treated in cyber situations the same as they are when resident students attend non-district brick-and-mortar schools.”

District business manager Craig Livergood said that if the bill passes, there would be a savings that could be used to support or provide additional support for programs at BEA, and which could also aid the district in keeping taxes level. Of course, all decisions would be made by the nine-member school board.

As of February, the Bald Eagle Area School District has paid a cyber charter school tuition of  $244,246.18 for 21 cyber school students. That’s an increase of $99,127.10 from the 2017-18 school year, according to Livergood.

To learn more about the BEA Cyber Academy, visit this link: https://www.beasd.org/o/bald-eagle-area-cyber-academy. Those students who are a part of cyber education at Bald Eagle Area School District also have the option of working one-on-one with a certified teacher, participating in district-sponsored extracurricular activities, attending Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology and more – which is not an option for students who attend cyber charter schools. He or she also graduates with a Bald Eagle Area diploma.