HARRISBURG, April 12, 2016 – Saying the state auditor general’s new investigation of charter schools in the School District of Philadelphia underscores his belief that Pennsylvania’s charter school financing system is “broken,” Sen. Vincent Hughes today promised legislation that would restore local control to school boards.
“Since 1997, billions in taxpayer dollars have been siphoned away from public schools to charter and cyber charter schools due to the charter school law’s inequitable funding provisions,” Hughes, the Senate Democratic Appropriations Committee chairman, said following Auditor General Eugene DePasquale’s press conference. “It’s time to fix the funding formulas before billions more are lost.”
Under Sen. Hughes legislation, changes to the state’s charter school law would be made to allow a local school board to consider financial impact as part of the charter school authorization process, allow a local school board to set student enrollment targets at any time during a charter school’s existence, and limit the state charter appeal board’s role solely to affirming the local school board’s decision related to a charter authorization or renewal.
The biggest problem in the charter school financing law, Sen. Hughes said, is how cyber charters are funded.
“One of the state’s largest cyber charter schools receives tuition payments from 478 different school districts,” Hughes said. “The amount of those payments varies widely – from $6,628 and $17,182 per student – but not one of those payments is related to what the cyber charter actually spends.
“The average, per-student expenditure for the state’s cyber charters is $10,145 per student. When the cyber charter provider receives more than necessary to educate the student, the provider pockets these taxpayer dollars.”
Once overdue changes are adopted, Hughes said school districts could save $100 million, and cyber charters would be forced to do a better job educating their students.
According to the PA Department of Education’s most recent School Performance Profile, the average score – out of 100 – for the state’s 13 cyber charters is 48. Not one has earned an SPP score above a passing grade of 70.
Another change that would benefit school districts and ensure the proper education of students is in the area of special education.
“Charter schools receive about $19,000 per special education student,” Hughes said. “But they only spend about $10,000 of that on services for those students.”
Once changed, Sen. Hughes said school districts could annually save $180 million.
To read a copy of Auditor General Eugene DePasquale’s audit of the School District of Philadelphia’s charter schools, click here.
Contact: Mark Shade