Local School Districts Reputed Losers In Charter Reform

HARRISBURG PA – Advocates for Pennsylvania school districts like Pottsgrove, Pottstown and the Spring-Ford Area appear to have lost their fight, for now, to have the state Legislature revise the formula that provides funding for charter schools, The Pennsylvania Independent online news service reported Wednesday (Nov. 14, 2012).

Local School Districts Reputed Losers In Charter ReformThe local districts and those across the state all pay for their students who choose to attend charter schools based on a tuition rate that includes calculations for pension contributions for charter school employees. The contributions make up the largest chunk of money the state gives directly to charters. District administrators and school boards hoped to have the formula changed during this legislative session, The Independent reported.

It wasn’t.

Steve Robinson, director of public relations for the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, said districts would like to see pension contributions removed from the tuition rate formula. Doing so, he told The Independent, could save $500 million by the 2016-2017 school year; money that might otherwise be paid by districts’ taxpayers.

“Any effort to correct funding flaws, any effort to get the tuition payments to be more fair and equitable certainly is going to help districts out, because they won’t be overpaying for what they should be for the charter costs,” Robinson said. He called it a “no-brainer.”

On the other side of the debate is Larry Jones, president of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools. Addressing tuition payments, and specifically the pension issue, should be part of a greater discussion about the funding formula in general, he said.