Charter School Funding Reform & School Vouchers

Charter School Funding

Enrollment in cyber charter schools has skyrocketed in recent years, with the PA School Boards Association citing mandatory charter school tuition payments as the top source of budget pressure for public schools every year since 2019, causing PA school districts to pay $350 million more than the 2019-2020 school year and intensifying pressure on local property taxes. The PA House and Senate Education Committees are charged with setting policy to solve this problem.

Charter School Tuition

Conversations about basic education funding and closing adequacy/equity gaps must also acknowledge the complicating factor of charter tuition. Each district has its own rate, based on its per-pupil expenditures, and must pay the same amount to both brick-and-mortar charter schools and cyber charter schools. 

For example, a school district with a per-pupil expenditure of $10,000 must pay $10,000 to charter entities for each student that chooses to attend those schools, even if the charter school is virtual and does not have any of the expenses of actual school buildings, transportation, maintenance, etc.

If the charter school is brick and mortar, the same funding formula still applies. In nearly every instance, these charter school students can be educated in their home district in spaces that already exist for less than half the cost.

As the state increases its share of funding and districts spend more, this ultimately increases their expenditures and thus, their charter entity tuition. In essence, the automatic pass-through increase in charter school tuition as districts increase spending to achieve adequate amounts to a hidden “tax” on each dollar spent and increases the cost to the state of achieving adequacy. Charter tuition increased by $133.9% from 2011-12 to 2021-22, far outpacing the growth in all areas of state spending.

CAPS supports addressing the spiraling effect that increased state funding has on districts’ charter tuition. This problem necessitates multiple potential solutions such as reinstating the charter school reimbursement to districts, removing the charter expenditure from the tuition calculation, and exploring alternative ways of allocating funding that breaks this unfair spiral. 

How You Can Help

If a virtual learning environment is best for your children and family, reach out to your school entity and explore cyber education opportunities that are run by local school districts: the entities you trust offering the academic platform you need. Choosing this option allows children access to exceptional local education resources without the repercussions of the unfair funding formula that allows companies to profit from our students.

For additional resources on this topic, please visit PA Charter Change, an organization dedicated to building support for the development and enactment of legislation that would provide regulatory and funding changes to Pennsylvania’s Charter School Law.

School Vouchers

“Lifeline scholarship” programs or any other types of tuition voucher schemes for private and religious schools divert taxpayer funds from public schools.

Instead of sending money to private schools, we should focus on public schools, not take money away from them. We need to reduce class sizes to give our students more one-on-one attention and increase salaries to address the teacher and staff shortage.

Unlike public schools, private schools take tax dollars without saying how the money is spent. They are not required to do financial audits or disclose staff salaries or administrative costs. Millions have been lost to waste, fraud, and abuse at private schools, with no guarantee that taxpayer money goes into the classroom.

Let your opinion be heard in Washington and Harrisburg by contacting your legislators.

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