The proposed Urban Cyber Charter School in York is among eight charters to receive denials for the 2013-14 school year from state Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis.
The first cyber charter school that would have been based in York County, Urban Cyber was proposed by local 3Cord Inc., an educational management organization that manages New Hope Academy Charter School in York.
The seven other cyber charters denied are based in Allegheny, Dauphin, Delaware, Lehigh and Philadelphia counties.
"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 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 charters' applications and Tomalis' denial letters to each charter are posted on the Department of Education's website at www.education.state.pa.us.
Options: Urban Cyber Charter has 30 days from Monday to appeal Tomalis' decision. Or, the charter could use a one-time opportunity to revise and resubmit its application within 120 days of its proposed opening date for the 2013-14 school year.
Ryan Davis, president of Urban Cyber Charter School, said organizers are committed to moving forward with the project and will file an appeal when the state sends a letter notifying the group the application was denied.
Davis said he has not received that official letter, and he declined to discuss the reasons for the denial and how organizers plan to address them.
State approval for the school would mean students from York or anywhere in the state could enroll. The tuition for cyber charters is paid by the district in which the student resides.
Problems: In his 16-page letter to Urban Cyber Charter School, Tomalis said he found deficiencies in several areas including meeting application requirements and physical school properties plans, as well as the development of curriculum and English as a Second Language programs, the financial report for start-up funding, Internet reimbursements, benefits and transportation costs, and per-pupil revenue for students outside the York area.
He also wrote Urban Cyber Charter failed to submit evidence of insurability and listed "conflicting enrollment" adjustments. One part of the application projected 250 students enrolled in each of the first five years, while the listed number is 500 in the application's "needs assessment," Tomalis noted.
The charter did not identify who would monitor the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests and "failed to articulate measures" for meeting No Child Left Behind and Adequate Yearly Progress goals, Tomalis said.
The Urban charter does not offer GED classes to students, though Education2020 - the charter's virtual classroom provider - does, he said. But the charter said its board could allow it to use school funds to purchase GED preparation courses, which the state does not allow. Charter school funds can only be used for charter school purposes, Tomalis wrote.
Teachers: He also took issue with Urban Cyber Charter's plans for employing teachers. In its application, the charter said Education2020's teachers - who are not state certified - would deliver instruction through recorded video, while certified teachers would interact with students and grade their work. Only Education2020 would have the authority to hire, supervise, evaluate or terminate teachers, Tomalis said.
Because the charter did not provide evidence of a written agreement with Education2020, the state cannot determine whether the teacher plans are in compliance with state law, he said.
Tomalis also disagreed with Urban Cyber Charter's plans to use YWCAs - in York, Lancaster and Harrisburg - as a "hub" or classroom areas for students to do online learning together. He said the charter would have to provide adequate accessibility to all its students by providing meeting places in districts they reside in or by having teachers travel to locations convenient for the students.
The charter may only use a physical facility for its administration, for issuing standardized tests to students and for teachers/counselors meetings with parents and students, he said.
Attendance: Urban Cyber Charter's plans to provide daily student attendance lists when requested by their school districts are not in compliance with the federal Family Education Rights and Privacy Act, which protects the release of education records unless a parent allows it with a signed consent, Tomalis said.
"A student's resident district is not automatically authorized to receive a student's education record when the student is enrolled in the charter school," he said in the letter.
In regard to special education, Urban Cyber Charter "failed to demonstrate that it has reasonable knowledge of the requirements for providing special education programs and services," Tomalis wrote. "Urban failed to submit any policies or procedures in key required areas of special education."
As required by the Charter School Law, the Department of Education is responsible for oversight of cyber charter schools in Pennsylvania, including the granting and revocation of a charter.
In late November, public hearings were held over a four-day period to provide each applicant an opportunity to defend its proposal and undergo questioning by department staff.
- Reach Eyana Adah McMillan at firstname.lastname@example.org.