Date of Award

Fall 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Public Administration (DPA)


Public Policy and Administration

Committee Chairperson

Allison Turner, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Angela Kline, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Adam Jardina, Ph.D.


Pennsylvania’s current cyber charter school landscape is often discussed as an area in which reform is needed, but political bickering and biased arguments have rendered meaningful change nonexistent. This research project seeks to resolve this logjam by examining the issue from a different perspective than that which has been utilized in many previous studies. By viewing the existing landscape through the lens of principal-agent theory, one can begin to understand the legislative intent behind the creation of cyber charter schools in Pennsylvania. Once this intent is known, assessment of actual outcomes becomes possible. This study collected data relating to academic achievement and financial behavior of cyber charter schools and compared these data points to brick-and-mortar public school districts. It was found that significant disparities exist in academic achievement, but fewer differences exist as it relates to financial behavior. These findings indicate that critics of Pennsylvania’s cyber charter education system have a strong argument when certain areas of academic achievement are considered, but financial criticisms are much more complicated than current criticisms may indicate. Furthermore, the strength of some arguments made against cyber charter education is found to be lessened due to current data constraints. This study develops a series of recommendations designed to inject true competition and accountability into the relationship between the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the cyber charter schools it oversees in order to align the operating landscape more closely with the legislature’s intended outcomes.