PSBA Legislative Priority Issue: Enact Meaningful Charter School Reforms

PSBA believes that the state must enact comprehensive reforms to address areas of charter school operations, accountability and funding.

The average Pennsylvania school district spends millions of dollars in taxpayer money annually in mandatory payments to brick-and-mortar and cyber charter schools. Collectively, school districts will spend an estimated $3 billion in charter tuition this year. The current charter school funding formula was established in 1997 under the state's Charter School Law and has not been changed in the 25 years since it was first created. The formulas for regular and special education programs are unfair because they based on a school district’s expenditures and not what it actually costs to educate a child in the charter school. For a deeper explanation, facts and figures on charter school funding, go to the Keystone Center for Charter Change at PSBA.

The need for charter funding reform

We need a new system that is tied to the actual costs to educate a child enrolled in a charter school. The General Assembly is urged to provide savings by adopting permanent charter school funding reforms that are predictable, accurate and reflect the actual costs to educate students in regular and special education programs. Further, the process for reconciling payment errors and disputes in current law does not provide for a complete and timely dispute resolution process. This lack of structure and timelines has resulted in longstanding, unresolved disputes over millions of dollars.

At a time when education resources have never been more important, school leaders are urging the General Assembly for funding reforms that are predictable, accurate and reflect the actual costs to educate students in regular and special education programs. Charter funding reform will create savings that districts will be able to reinvest in their students, staff and classrooms.

Recommendations for fair reforms 

  • For cyber charter regular education tuition: The General Assembly should adopt a statewide flat rate for regular education tuition that more accurately funds cyber charter schools to ensure that school districts and taxpayers are no longer overpaying these schools.
  • For charter special education tuition: The General Assembly should enact legislation to apply a tiered special education funding formula to charter schools in the same manner as it did for school districts.
  • For charter school payment reconciliation: The General Assembly should enact legislation to create a process to ensure that payments due to a charter school are accurate, and further provide that the process used to reconcile those payments, including addressing any disputes that arise, is fair and timely. One of the greatest sources of friction between charter schools and school districts is the accuracy and timeliness of payments.

Legislation supported by PSBA  

Comprehensive charter reform: House Bill 272  (Rep. Ciresi, D-Montgomery) and Senate Bill 27 (Sen. L. Williams, D-Allegheny) address transparency, performance and funding issues.

Special education funding reform: House Bill 1749 (Rep. Rosemary Brown, R-Monroe) and legislation being introduced by Sen. Mario Scavello (R-Monroe) addresses special education funding tuition for charter schools.

Charter school reconciliation process: House Bill 1892 (Rep. Sonney, R-Erie)  establishes a process to ensure that payments due to a charter school are accurate, and further provides that the process used to reconcile those payments, including addressing any disputes that arise, is fair and timely.

Click here for information you can share with your legislators on the need for charter reform.

 Calling all school boards to adopt the resolution
Over 400 school boards across the state have joined PSBA’s efforts to change the existing flawed charter school funding formulas for regular and special education. If you have not done so already, please print out the resolution and adopt it at your next board meeting. Once it is adopted and signed, please send a copy to your legislators and upload a copy to PSBA using the form below. We will add your district to the list of boards that have adopted the resolution.

2022 Resolution calling for charter school funding reform (PDF)

2022 Resolution calling for charter school funding reform (WORD)

Submit your adopted resolution to PSBA here

View the list of districts who adopted the resolution

 Resources

 A Closer Look: It’s time to reform special education payments for charter schools — Charter schools are still paid using a flawed formula that does not reflect what they are spending to educate their students with disabilities, resulting in millions of dollars in overpayments.

A Closer Look: Why it’s time to change the cyber charter funding system — Pennsylvania’s current method of funding cyber charter schools utilizes a flawed and outdated formula that results in inconsistencies and overpayments.

A Closer Look: Do charter schools really receive 25% less funding per student than school districts? — In 2018-19, Pennsylvania school districts in total spent over $2 billion in mandated payments to charter schools.