The 2021-22 budget proposal offered by Gov. Tom Wolf in February includes a call for comprehensive Charter School Law reform that he estimates will save school districts about $229 million per year. This would be accomplished by:
- Applying the four-tiered special education formula applied to school district funding to all charter schools (estimated to save $99 million annually).
- Establishing a statewide cyber charter tuition rate of $9,500 per student per year (estimated to save $130 million annually).
- Improving the redirection process. Currently, if a school district does not pay the tuition for its resident students who attend a charter school or there is a dispute between a school district and a charter on tuition payments, the charter school may petition PDE to reconcile the dispute through the redirection process. The budget proposal provides clarification on the redirection process, including the basis for reported expenditures and the deductions included in the tuition rate calculation, to increase fairness, accountability, and transparency.
PSBA has voiced its support for the governor’s attention to the much-needed reform to Pennsylvania’s Charter School Law. In a news release , PSBA Chief Executive Officer Nathan Mains said that “PSBA has long advocated on behalf of reform to PA’s outdated 23-year-old Charter School Law and we support Gov. Wolf’s effort to implement savings, along with additional accountability and transparency for charter schools in Pennsylvania. The current funding formula, which has public school districts paying mandated tuition to charter schools at an inflated rate beyond the actual costs dedicated to student education is flawed and requires substantial regulatory and funding changes.”
PSBA supports House Bill 272
Rep. Joseph Ciresi (D-Montgomery) introduced House Bill 272, the Charter School Reform Act of 2021. PSBA supports this legislation that contains components of the charter reform package called for by the governor. The 120-page bill addresses transparency, funding and accountability issues. House Bill 272 is in the House Education Committee for consideration.
Information taken from Rep. Ciresi’s outline of House Bill 272 includes:
Protecting Your Right to Know
- Requires charter school trustees and administrators to live by the same financial and ethical reporting standards public school board members and school district officials live up to.
- Requires charter school meetings to follow the Sunshine Act.
- Requires any company running a charter school to open up their records so the people can see if they’re educating kids properly or just cashing in.
Protecting Tax Dollars
This year twenty cents of every dollar paid in property tax will go to charter schools.
Just 14 cyber charter schools are collecting over a half-billion dollars in tax money.
- Requires a statewide, data-driven cyber charter school tuition rate to make sure all taxpayers are getting the same results for the same dollars and ending the wide disparity in rates affecting tuition in neighboring districts.
- Requires charter schools to use the Special Education Fair Funding Formula public schools use to ensure students in need are getting the results they deserve and preventing huge tax rate increases on homeowners in districts serving rapidly growing populations of students with special needs.
- Requires charter schools to carry enough insurance to take care of kids and families if the charter closes or the parent company goes out of business.
Protecting the Future of Our Kids
- Creates a standard state framework for charter school applications so potential school operators know just what is required to deliver success.
- Standardizes the method to change charter schools’ missions and goals to reward innovation and best practices, and to ensure school districts have the tools needed to evaluate changes to charters.
- Creates a state grading system for charters to allow high-performing schools even more self-determination while focusing attention on low-performing schools to better serve the kids.
- Stops the creation of new cyber charter schools until the existing schools improve performance – right now three out of every four charter schools rank in the bottom five percent of schools statewide – and charges PDE with creating enrollment and performance standards of the worst performers.