Monday, June 30, 2008

Lies, damned lies, and school district budgets

My father often quoted there are three kinds of untruths: lies, damned lies, and statistics (One has but to consult the latest Dish Network TV ad where a supposed cable-TV exec claims some 90% of all statistics are believed by the public, at least 50% of the time).

Along with my father's quote, I would submit school district budgets, as in the following from the Citizen's Voice regarding the Pittston (PA) Area School board's preliminary budget:

Increasing cost of transportation, debts owed from building remodeling projects and costs to support state charter and topped the list of budget increases. Since the original proposed budget was drafted earlier in the year, Melone explained he was mainly able to reduce the increase by swapping some estimations of salary and overtime increases with lower, exact numbers. Some preliminary estimations, including changes in cyber school costs, special needs and learning support, had to be increased in the revised budget.

While I do not live in Pittston, my kids are enrolled in cyber-charter schools, and in this budget (and many others throughout the PA school districts), those cyber-charter schools are being made scapegoats for failed administrative policies.

When a student in any school district throughout Pennsylvania enrolls in a cyber-charter school, the local district is billed by the cyber-charter for roughly 75% of the district's per-capita cost for their students. In round numbers, if it costs the Pittston Area SD $1000/year to educate students, a cyber-charter would bill the SD about $750 for any student who enrolled in a cyber-charter school from that district.

So for the Pittston Area SD to claim their budget woes on cyber-charter schools is ridiculous; the local SDs actually net more money for every cyber student, since they're getting ~25% of their per capita costs for a student who isn't even attending their schools!

So why are they providing false data? Because the traditional brick-and-mortar schools are feeling the heat of competition from cyber-charter schools. Cyber-Charters are doing more with less money, and the test scores prove it. The monopoly the local SD's and teacher unions have had is being threatened, so they will spin their budgetary numbers any way they can to prevent more people in Pennsylvania from making the switch.

Competition and free-markets always provide better service and results.

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