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 Article of Interest - Charter Schools

Einstein Academy Loses Its Charter
A state board upheld findings by Morrisville's school district. The online school will appeal.
by Martha Woodall, Philadelphia Inquirer Staff Writer, May 15, 2003
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The state charter appeals board pulled the plug yesterday on Einstein Academy, once the largest of the state's eight online charter schools.

By a 6-0 vote, the board upheld a decision of the Morrisville Borough School District to revoke the school's charter.

During yesterday's meeting, board members did not give reasons for their decision. But State Secretary of Education Vicki L. Phillips said in an interview later that members had agreed with many of Morrisville's findings, including the lack of special education services and poor fiscal management at the school.

Phillips said the school, which has a K-12 enrollment of 670 students, would operate through the end of the academic year. "We do not want to disrupt the children," she said.

Einstein officials said they were not entirely surprised by the ruling and would appeal to Commonwealth Court.

"We expected that vote. However, I thought that legal and common sense might prevail," said Barry Delit, Einstein's president and chief executive officer.

He said the school had resolved several of the problems cited, including offering more special education services and improving financial management.

Delit said he would recommend that Einstein parents make alternative education plans for next fall. "Just in case things go south, they should start making other arrangements," he said. "They can always be canceled."

He said some parents had already signed up with other charters but assured him their children would return to Einstein if the school survived.

The Morrisville school board in Bucks County granted Einstein a five-year charter, and the school opened with 3,000 students in September 2001. A year later, Morrisville voted to revoke the charter on the ground that the school had failed to correct numerous problems, the most serious being those involving financial management and special education.

During the appeals board hearing in March, Einstein officials acknowledged that the school had had a rough beginning but argued that the school deserved a second chance. They attributed many of the problems to the school's original leadership, which has been replaced.

Yesterday's decision was the latest blow to a school that found itself embroiled in court battles and funding disputes from the outset.

More than 100 school districts filed lawsuits challenging the school's legality and refused to pay the tuition of their students enrolled in Einstein.

While the courts considered the legal issues, the department of education withheld state funding from districts that refused to pay the tuition. But during the 2001-02 year, the department also delayed forwarding those payments to Einstein, citing the same problems that Morrisville had found.

The courts ultimately found that cyber schools were legal, and the legislature passed a law spelling out how the schools should operate.

This year, there were fewer funding problems. Delit said the school had improved its relationship with the department and had been receiving all its scheduled monthly tuition payments from the state.

Einstein students receive instruction in their homes via the Internet. They use e-mail to correspond with their teachers and turn in assignments. As a publicly funded charter, Einstein bills the students' school districts for their tuition.

Contact staff writer Martha Woodall at 215-854-2789 or at


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