Charter School Funding Reform

Charter School Funding and the Pandemic

Enrollment in cyber charter schools has skyrocketed during the pandemic, 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. In some of our local school districts, the amount spent on charter tuition is in the millions of dollars. 

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 $628 million between FY 2013-14 and FY 2018-19. By comparison, basic education funding increased by $572 million over that period. 

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.

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