Charter school reform would save $ 6.4 million for schools in Erie region
- In Erie School District, Charter Tuition Fees Increased 182% Since 2008-09
- Proposed bipartite legislation would set a statewide tuition rate for charter cyber schools
The proposed legislation to hold charter schools more accountable to Pennsylvania students and taxpayers could save Erie County school districts about $ 6.4 million per year.
the law Project is a “common sense and fair plan to correct Pennsylvania’s broken charter school law,” said Acting Education Secretary Noe Ortega.
The plan would require underperforming charter schools to improve the quality of education, align funding with costs and increase the transparency of for-profit companies that operate many charter schools, Ortega said.
Related:Governor Wolf Says Charter Schools Act Obsolete
Public school districts overpay charter schools for services provided to enrolled students who live in their districts, Ortega said. And charter school fees have gone up.
In the Erie school district, tuition fees have increased 182% since 2008-09, from $ 11 million to $ 31 million this coming school year, Superintendent of Schools Brian Polito said during a virtual press conference.
âDuring this period, we have been forced to close six schools and eliminate more than 350 full-time positions, these decisions being driven at least in part by significant increases in tuition fees,â Polito said.
The proposed bipartite legislation would set a statewide tuition rate for charter cyber schools.
The Erie school district would save more than $ 5 million per year if the proposed legislation becomes law, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Education. calculations.
This school year, 1,497 Erie students were enrolled in charter schools.
As in Erie, the rising cost of charter schools is draining funding for traditional public schools and forcing school districts to cut education programs and increase ownership increases, Ortega said.
More than 80% of Pennsylvania’s 500 school boards have passed resolutions calling for charter school reform.
“It is just unbearable,” Polito said of the rising costs of charter schools. âThe kind of common sense reform proposed by Governor Wolf is critical to our fiscal health as a district and our ability to invest in our students, which directly affects the health and prosperity of our entire region. “
The legislation would also require underperforming charter schools to meet education standards. Ortega cited a Stanford University Report 2019 which revealed that Pennsylvania’s charter cyber schools are grossly underperforming.
Disparity between public schools and charter schools
There is a disparity in the educational and financial responsibility required of public and charter schools, said Millcreek Schools Superintendent Ian Roberts.
“The problem, which creates a cantankerous relationship, is the disparity in accountability, as public schools are held to the highest fiscal and academic standards,” said Roberts.
âConversely, failing or poorly performing charter schools often perpetuate mediocrity without consequence. Increasing accountability for performance and addressing the major problem of the costly and unfair funding formula between charters and public districts needs to be addressed urgently, âsaid Roberts.
Students at Erie and Millcreek public schools “regularly outperform” charter school students in standardized math and reading tests, local superintendents said.
Charter schools have little public oversight and no publicly elected school boards. The for-profit companies that run many charter schools are not required to have independent financial audits, Ortega said.
Under the proposed legislation, charter schools would be required to have policies to prevent nepotism and conflicts of interest, and charter schools and their leaders would be required to follow the standards of the Ethics Commission. the state.
Charter schools and school choice organizations oppose the legislation.
Letrisha Weber of Indiana, president of the National Coalition of Public School Options, in a letter to the Erie Times-News, called the legislation a “poorly disguised charter school closure plan” and said public school districts have failed to meet the needs of students, particularly in distance learning.
“Governor Wolf is just the latest in a long line of Democratic governors who feast on contributions from teachers’ unions and then strive to close the competition,” Weber said. “In doing so, Governor Wolf wants to cut a lifeline for families trying to escape failing school districts.”
Here’s how much Erie County school districts would save each year, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
- Corry region: $ 112,061
- Erie: $ 5,002,235
- Fairview: $ 19,452
- Fort LeBoeuf: $ 128,673
- General McLane: $ 132,641
- Girard: $ 116,205
- Harbor Creek: $ 93,068
- Iroquois: $ 104,593
- Millcreek: $ 371,571
- Northwest: $ 89,516
- Union City: $ 98,298
- Wattsburg area: $ 178,087
The Northeast School District would lose $ 10,055 per year.