By Pat Loeb

HARRISBURG, Pa. (CBS) — Even as the Pennsylvania Education Department is considering applications for eight new “cyber” charter schools, education advocates and taxpayer watchdogs are calling for a moratorium on the applications.

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Critics cite a number of weaknesses with the state’s existing cyber charters, and oppose any new ones.

The schools offer in-home elementary and high school instruction through computers.

Rhonda Brownstein of the Education Law Center says only one of 12 cyber charters in Pennsylvania made “adequate yearly progress” — the measure of a school’s academic performance — last year.

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“The cyber charters that we already have in operation are doing terribly, so the idea of approving eight more seems to make no sense,” she tells KYW Newsradio.

Pennsylvania auditor general Jack Wagner’s problem with the cyber charters is the state’s funding formula.  They get the same amount of money per student as bricks-and-mortar schools but spend much less, leading to what Wagner sees as an extravagant waste of taxpayer money.

“There’s about $300 million being spent that is unnecessary,” Wagner says.

The state in July approved four new cyber charters for the current school year, giving the state the highest concentration of such schools in the country.

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