Local Rep Proposes Limits To Charter Payments

HARRISBURG PA – Proposed legislation that would allow public school districts to choose whether to pay charter schools that are outside district boundaries – and potentially beyond district oversight – was introduced this week to the state General Assembly by 146th District Rep. Joe Ciresi, he announced Wednesday (June 5, 2019).

Ciresi represents voters in all or parts of Lower Pottsgrove, Limerick, and Perkiomen townships, and Pottstown, Royersford, and Trappe boroughs. The bill was introduced with 18 bipartisan cosponsors, he reported.

The Post today is publishing a package of three stories related to charter schools. Read:

Currently, school districts like Pottsgrove, Pottstown, Spring-Ford Area, and Perkiomen Valley must pay for students who live within their boundaries to attend a charter school if their families choose, even if the charter school is located outside the district and has not been authorized by the district, Ciresi reported.

“This means … districts are making state-mandated payments to charter schools without any ability to ensure those district students are receiving a quality education,” he said. “It’s unfair to require districts to pay these schools when (they) have had no say in whether or not the particular charter school should be authorized in the first place.”

His House Bill 1571 would give local school boards the option of annually voting by June 30 whether to make payments to an unauthorized charter school outside their boundaries. Ciresi’s announcement did not specify what constituted adequate oversight, did not explain how district authorization would work, and did not describe an appeals process if any for charter schools.

If districts chose not to pay, and a student continued to attend the charter school outside the district boundaries, the student or parents would be responsible for tuition.

The student would also no longer be counted in the local school district’s “average daily membership” calculation for determining state funding, and the district would not qualify for state temporary assistance or grants available to help districts with charter school payments.

Ciresi is a former Spring-Ford school board member. “Having served on a school board for many years, I’m well aware of how limited school funding is. Growing mandated charter payments have been a drain on school district budgets, burdening our residents with higher property taxes. My bill would increase fairness for districts, ensure taxpayer money is well-spent, and deliver savings,” Ciresi claimed.

Ciresi is also a co-sponsor of bill for cyber charter reform, which would end the use of taxpayer funds to pay for external cyber charter education if the school district already offers a comparable cyber school program. Pottstown, Pottsgrove, Spring-Ford, and Perkiomen Valley district combined will spend $9.7 million on charter and cyber charter tuition in the 2019-202o academic year, he estimated.

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