In May of 2022, we learned that Commonwealth Charter Academy (CCA), PA’s largest cyber charter school, which received nearly $400 million in revenue in 2022, was providing families with hundreds of dollars per student in reimbursements each year using a “Community Class Registration Form.

If a school district were going to provide cash reimbursements to families for activities their children participate in outside of the school day, we can be certain that community members would know how these tax dollars were being spent. There would be a public discussion and vote at a school board meeting in order to enact this spending. And we would imagine that there would be strong public opposition to this spending.

Cyber charter schools are funded by the exact same property tax dollars that fund our local schools, but this type of transparency for how cybers spend more than $1 billion they receive from school districts each year simply does not exist.

On May 23, 2022, Ed Voters filed a Right to Know request to better understand how CCA was using tax dollars from school districts to reimburse families. We sought the following information from the Community Class Registration Forms:

  • Course title
  • Number of times the course meets
  • Start Date
  • Cost of the Class
  • Amount requesting for reimbursement

This was a straightforward Right to Know request. CCA should have redacted personal information from these forms and emailed copies to us.

However, what happened over the next 20 months demonstrates both the lengths to which CCA was willing to go to keep this information secret and the extraordinary amount of time and legal expertise it takes in Pennsylvania to get basic information about how cyber charter schools spend the tax dollars they receive from school districts.

The legal documents are linked below if you would like to do a deep dive into this.There are a lot!!

In a nutshell,

  • Ed Voters filed a Right to Know request with CCA.
  • CCA refused to provide the requested documents.
  • Ed Voters appealed this to the Office of Open Records (OOR).
  • The OOR issued a final determination stating that CCA had to provide us with the documents.
  • CCA refused to provide the documents and filed a petition for review of the OOR Final Determination in the Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas.

At this point, without the help of an attorney, we would have had to give up and this information would have remained secret. Fortunately, the Public Interest Law Center agreed to represent Education Voters in this case at no cost to us.

CCA based their denial on the baseless argument that providing forms redacted of all personally identifiable information would be a violation of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

After three dates in the courtroom, hundreds of pages of court filings and documents, skilled argumentation by attorney Caroline Ramsey, and months of having this drawn out, the judge in the Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas ultimately ruled in our favor on February 6th, 2024 and ordered CCA to provide the information that we had requested by no later than April 6, 2024.

Click HERE to read the court ruling.

 What did we learn from this?

  1. Governor Shapiro’s Department of Education needs to prioritize accountability for cyber charter schools and the legislature must provide additional funding to PDE so they can hire necessary staff to conduct audits and work through cyber charter renewals. Right now the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) is allowing most cyber charters to operate with expired charters and most cybers have never been audited by the state or were audited many years ago.
  2. Cyber charter schools will spare no taxpayer-funded legal expense to hide how they are spending money.They really, really don’t want the public to know how they are spending our tax dollars.
  3. The Public Interest Law Center is an invaluable organization in Pennsylvania that holds power to account. With the Law Center’s expert legal help, our tiny nonprofit was able to go to court with a cyber charter school that receives $400 million in annual revenue and win.

If you’d like to make a donation to show your appreciation for the time and effort that the Public Interest Law Center dedicated to helping Ed Voters with this case click HERE to donate.

We will be doing a lot of advocacy around cyber charter funding and accountability reforms in the upcoming weeks and months. For today, we want to thank you for your support of Ed Voters and hope that you will share in celebrating this big win for transparency in Pennsylvania’s cyber charter sector.

Outside of the Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas with Public Interest Law Center staff attorney, Caroline Ramsey, after her skilled oral argument in September.

Outside of the Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas with Public Interest Law Center staff attorney, Caroline Ramsey, after her skilled oral argument in September.


Susan Spicka, Executive Director, Education Voters of PA

Timeline and legal documents

Community Class Attendance Form

May 23, 2022 RTK form from Ed Voters

May 31, 2022 CCA Extension Notice

June 30, 2022 CCA Final Response to RTK

August 8, 2022 CCA Response to RTKL Appeal

August 8, 2022 Entry of Appearance on Behalf of CCA

September 16, 2022 Office of Open Records Final Determination

October 13, 2022 CCA Petition for Review of Final Determination

October 20, 2022 Stay Order

March 7, 2023 Stay Lifted

March 14, 2023 Respondents Answer to Petition for Review

March 16, 2023 Initial Conference Scheduling from the Court

May 31st, 2023 CCA vs. Spicka Initial Conference Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas

July 13, 2023 CCA vs. Spicka Settlement Conference, Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas

July 26, 2023 Office of Open Records letter

August 14, 2023 Brief of the Respondents

August 15, 2023 Brief of the Petitioners

September 7, 2023 CCA vs. Spicka Oral Argument in Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas

February 6, 2024 Court Order

Ready for a frame!!