At present, Pennsylvania's system for funding charter schools is profoundly unfair to the thousands of Pennsylvania families who have chosen to exercise their right to educational choice. The vast majority Pennsylvania Charter Schools receive anywhere from 60-75% of the per-student-funding available to surrounding districts. In addition, the means of determining the amount of funding charter schools receive is almost always in the hands of "authorizing" school districts which often see charter schools as competition and have no interest in their well-being.
While Pennsylvania's cyber-charter schools may benefit from lower costs and overhead than traditional public schools, bricks-and-mortar charter schools DO NOT.
In fact, operating a bricks-and-mortar charter school carries an expense burden which is at least identical and often, substantially higher than that of traditional public schools. As if this weren't bad enough, Pennsylvania's charter schools have also felt the impact of extremely damaging legislative changes initiated during last year's budgetary process. Perhaps the most expensive of these changes was the elimination of state Social Security reimbursement for all Pennsylvania charter schools -- but not for traditional public schools.
Finally, the laws that govern charter school funding in Pennsylvania are so weak and so vulnerable to manipulation that many charter schools often struggle to survive when surrounding districts decide to withhold, suspend or re-direct their monthly payments. The arbitrary actions of a hostile school district can, consequently, create a cash-flow disaster for a charter school which may make it very difficult to purchase books, heat buildings, and/or pay teachers.
Since Pennsylvania first approved the establishment of charter schools in 1997, the charter school community has always had to do more with less; however, the Pennsylvania legislature's inability to promote funding equity is pushing many charter schools to the edge of existence.
The reality of inequitable funding and the subsequent chipping-away at the remaining resources available to Pennsylvania's charter schools creates a playing field which is becoming increasingly uneven.
The Pennsylvania House and Senate MUST stand up to very powerful and well-funded special interest groups (such as PASBO, PSBA and the PSEA) and support the future of educational choice in our state. The children of Pennsylvania are depending on your strength and your integrity. Don't let them down!
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