Friday, January 27, 2023

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PA School-Board Groups Advocate for Charter-School Funding Changes

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Tuesday, September 13, 2022   

A Pennsylvania group made up of members of locally-elected, volunteer school boards across the state is urging the General Assembly to take action to reform the funding system for charter schools.

Pennsylvania's current charter-school funding formula was established in 1997 as part of the state's Charter School Law, and hasn't been changed in the 25 years since.

Lawrence Feinberg, director of the Keystone Center for Change, operated by the Pennsylvania School Board Association, said the group is advocating for two main issues to ensure school districts and taxpayers are not overpaying or reimbursing charter schools for costs they do not have.

"The first is that we'd like to see a single, statewide tuition rate for 'cyber' charter schools that reflects the actual cost to deliver education in a virtual environment," Feinberg outlined. "The second is the special-ed funding formula for charters to work the same way that it does for our district schools."

Feinberg pointed out the latter would address the severity of a child's disability and the related costs. More than 160 brick-and-mortar and 14 'cyber' charter schools educate 135,000 students, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Despite bipartisan support for charter-school funding reform, there's been no action in the General Assembly on House Bill 272 or its companion, Senate Bill 27.

Feinberg emphasized the House bill has more 70 co-sponsors, and about 20% are Republicans. He added neither the House nor Senate Education Committee chair has moved the cost-saving bills forward.

"If those bills were approved by the legislature, signed by the governor, then the tuition rates would be adjusted," Feinberg asserted. "It's estimated that would result in about $400 million in savings for taxpayers through their school districts."

He added overpayment for services results in fewer resources for the students in public schools, which translates to having fewer math and reading coaches, nurses, social workers and more, particularly in the most underfunded districts.

The Keystone Center for Charter Change includes members of 435 of the state's 500 school districts.


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