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Judge puts halt to cyber school enrollment

January 25, 2002

Judge puts halt to cyber school enrollment



By STACEY DANZUSO

chbbureau@innernet.net

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A Franklin County, Pa., judge has temporarily ordered a cyber school to stop enrolling local students.

Franklin County Court of Common Pleas Judge John Walker issued the preliminary injunction preventing Einstein Academy from "soliciting or enrolling students who would otherwise attend Chambersburg Area School District, Greencastle-Antrim School District, Tuscarora School District, Waynesboro Area School District and Shippensburg Area School District."

He also enjoined the Einstein Academy from attempting to collect from the school districts for any amounts they were previously billed or to collect from the Secretary of Education.

Walker has scheduled a hearing on the continuance of the injunction for 10 a.m. Monday in Courtroom 1 of the Franklin County Courthouse.

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The injunction comes days after the five Franklin County school districts filed a lawsuit questioning the legality of a charter cyber school.

Cyber schools educate students online in their homes through computer technology and Internet access.

Einstein Academy serves 2,400 students statewide and a few dozen in Franklin County.

The lawsuit claims there is a controversy over the "constitutionality of the charter school law, obligations of public school districts to make payments to Einstein Academy and whether Einstein Academy obtained a proper and lawful charter," and other concerns.

Attorneys for Einstein Academy and the other school officials named in the lawsuit filed a brief Wednesday in Franklin County Court opposing the school districts' lawsuit.

It asks the court to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction or stay the case pending resolution of a class action suit filed by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.

Local school districts began receiving bills this fall for students enrolled at the Einstein Academy. The student's school district of residence pays the charter cyber school the amount it spends per year on each student, averaging about $5,000 or $6,000.

Like many other districts in the state, the local districts are withholding payment, forcing the state secretary of education to deduct the amount from the districts' state subsidy payments.

The lawsuit does not say how many students from the five districts are enrolled at Einstein Academy or how for much they have been billed.

The local lawsuit argues that charter schools, and by extension cyber schools, violate the state constitution. In addition, it says even if the charter school law is valid, cyber schools are not authorized and wants Einstein Academy to cease operations.

The lawsuit also questions whether enrollment at Einstein Academy is in compliance with Pennsylvania's compulsory attendance law, whether cyber schools are qualified to be charter schools and whether fraudulent bills were sent for special education students when little or no special education-related services were provided.

According to the lawsuit, Einstein Academy is owned and operated by the National Organization For Children, Inc., a nonprofit corporation.

The school received its charter in November 2000, from the Borough of Morrisville School District in Bucks County, Pa.

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