Milton expects to spend $738K on cyber school tuition

Milton Area School District Business Administrator Derrek Fink spoke during an online meeting this week.

MILTON — The Milton Area School District expects to spend $738,000 this school year on tuition for students who live within the district but attend outside cyber charter schools.

During Tuesday’s school board meeting — held online via Zoom — Business Administrator Derrek Fink led a presentation on the cost of cyber charter school tuition to school districts. Under state law, districts are required to pay the tuition of students who live within the district but opt to attend outside cyber schools.

“It’s crucial to know that charter schools are not free,” Fink said. “That’s their big advertising campaign.”

While he said families do not pay tuition out of their pockets to the schools, Fink said hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars are used to pay the tuition.

According to data presented by Fink during the meeting, 47 regular education and six special education students who live within the district are currently enrolled in outside cyber charter schools.

The Milton Area School District is charged $12,421 tuition for each regular education student and $25,742 for each special education student enrolled in outside cyber schools. By contrast, he said it costs the district $3,670 to educate students through Milton’s own cyber school.

Superintendent Dr. Cathy Keegan said outside cyber schools offer many appealing things to draw families to the schools.

“There’s a lot of incentives to families to go to cyber charter schools, like tickets to (Philadelphia) 76ers games,” Keegan said.

Fink also presented data on the fund balances currently held by multiple charter schools. Those balances include: PA Cyber Charter, $90.7 million; Commonwealth Connect, $11.7 million; Reach Cyber Charter, $10.6 million; PA Virtual, $7.6 million; Achievement House, Insight and PA Distance Learning, $4 million each; and 21st Century Cyber, $3.4 million.

Fink said Milton’s current fund balance is $4 million.

He was particularly critical of PA Cyber Charter’s fund balance.

“We are paying all this money to send students to cyber charter schools and they are building these massive fund balances,” Fink said.

Keegan said one cyber charter school has a $9 million annual public relations budget. In Milton, she said that budget is $12,000.

She hopes members of the public contact their legislators and as for cyber school charter reform legislation to be enacted.

Board President Christine Rantz expressed disappointment as she believes members of the public have not expressed concern about the cost to districts of cyber charter schools.

“The cost of this has not resonated with our taxpayers for many years,” Rantz said.

Athletic Director Rod Harris reported during the meeting that the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) will be meeting today to discuss the winter sports season and potential masking mandates for athletes.

Harris also reported that the Northern Tier League has postponed the start of its winter sports season until Jan. 4, with practices to begin Dec. 7.

During his report to the board, Fink announced the district has received a $15,000 COVID-19 County Relief Block Grant from Union County. The funds will be used to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 on the district.

In addition, he reported that T-Mobile donated 135 WiFi hotspots to the district.

In other business actions, the board approved:

• The following coaches: Ryan Brandt, head boys basketball, $7,473; Mike Winn, junior varsity boys basketball, $4,883; Matthew Bingaman, ninth grade boys basketball, $4,130; W. Chip Rearick, seventh grade boys basketball, $4,130; Philip Davis, head girls basketball, $4,883; Christine Soltys, junior varsity girls basketball, $4,883; Joshua Anspach, head wrestling, $3,736.50; Jason Betz, head wrestling, $3,736.50; Joe Burke, junior varsity wrestling, $2,441.50; Bob Crawford, junior varsity wrestling, $2,441.50; Brock Waughen, grade seven to nine head wrestling, $4,130; Jerry Derr, grade seven to nine assistant wrestling, $2,959; Veronica Irvine, head swimming, $4,300; and Andy Neuer, head bowling, $4,300.

• Hiring Barry Heller, district wide custodian, $12 per hour.

Adelyn Hopple, a fifth-grade student at White Deer Elementary School, was named November Citizen of the Month.

Ryleigh Mabus was recognized during the meeting as Rotary Student of the Month, while Camden Scoggins was recognized as Outstanding Senior.

Lura Morh, Food Service employee, was named the Panther Pride Award winner.

Staff writer Kevin Mertz can be reached at 570-742-9671 or email kevin@standard-journal.com.

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