Pennsylvania Education Secretary Ron Tomalis announced Monday that he has denied eight cyber charter school applications for the 2013-14 school year, including one that was to be based in York.
Urban Cyber Charter School was proposed as having a "bricks and clicks" model statewide with students taking courses online with access to more services at cyber cafes to be located in YWCAs. It would be managed by 3Cord Inc., the same company that manages New Hope Academy Charter School in York.
Urban Cyber Charter School, like other applicants, can either address noted deficiencies and resubmit its application to the state Department of Education for reconsideration within 30 days, or appeal to the state's charter school appeal board, according to Department of Education spokesman Tim Eller.
Ryan Davis, board president for the proposed charter school, could not be reached for comment Monday. Denise Stouffer, with 3Cord Inc., was not available for comment.
In rejecting the eight applications, Tomalis said there were significant deficiencies in curriculum, finance and overall operations.
"The proposals submitted by the applicants lack adequate evidence and sufficient information of how prospective students would be offered quality academic programs," Tomalis said in a news release. "In addition, the financial plans presented call into question each applicant's ability to maintain a long-term, viable educational program for the benefit of Pennsylvania students."
The release announcing the decisions also said that "many of the applicants proposed to use learning centers in a way that blurred the line between a brick-and-mortar and cyber charter school," which was a factor in the denials.
Cyber charter schools are approved by the state, unlike brick-and-mortar charters, which are approved by local school boards. Like brick-and-mortar charters, the student's home school district pays for the student to attend cyber charter schools.
Public hearings were held over a four-day period in late November for the applicants, according to the Department of Education.
The Education Law Center has called for a moratorium on new cyber charter schools, and for the state to close down the existing cyber charters that are not meeting state standards.
Rhonda Brownstein, executive director of the Education Law Center, called Monday's announcement by Tomalis "a good initial decision."
But she said in a statement that, last year, the Department of Education rejected seven applications in January, only to approve four of those applications in June after they re-applied.
In a 15-page decision denying the application for Urban Cyber Charter School, the state Department of Education listed multiple reasons.
In one instance, the decision said the application did not have a finalized management agreement, and some provisions in the draft management agreement contain deficiencies. The decision said that since 3Cord Inc. is not providing any curriculum to the school and cannot provide teachers, it should not "receive 50 percent of any surplus funds even if payment of surplus funds were to be based on performance standards."
To view a copy of the state Department of Education's decision for Urban Cyber Charter School, visit www.yorkblog.com/cram.