Board Adopts Resolution Calling for Reform of Cyber Charter School Funding

The District’s charter school expenditures since 2009-2010 reflect extraordinary costs that were borne by its taxpayers. At its meeting on Thursday, February 18, 2021, the Board adopted the following resolution calling for charter school funding reform.

Resolution Calling For Charter School Funding
Whereas, the average Pennsylvania school district spends millions of dollars in taxpayer money annually in mandatory payments to brick-and-mortar and cyber charter schools; and these payments are calculated in a manner which requires districts to send more money to charter schools than is needed to operate their programs and places a significant financial burden on districts’ resources and taxpayers; and 

Whereas, the current charter school operating regulations fall short of expectations for public schools such that: only 75% of charter school professional employees are required to hold appropriate state certification, charter schools may evaluate their staff without following public school evaluation requirements; charter schools may limit their enrollment to particular grades and areas of concentration; charter schools are excluded from the traditional auditing requirements; charter schools may maintain a private budget in advance of formal adoption; charter schools are not required to provide student transportation; and charter school trustees are not publicly elected; and

Whereas, the current charter school funding formula was established in 1997 under the state's Charter School Law and has not been changed in the 24 years since it was first created; and the formula for regular education programs is unfair because it is based on a school district’s expenditures and not what it actually costs to educate a child in the charter school; and

Whereas, the calculation for charter special education tuition is unfair because it is also based on the special education expenditures of the school district rather than the charter school; and although the General Assembly revised the special education funding formula in 2014 to more accurately target special education resources for students identified with high, medium and low needs, this formula was applied only to school districts and not to charter schools; and 

Whereas, because the tuition rate calculations are based on the school district’s expenses, they create wide discrepancies in the amount of tuition paid by different districts for the same charter school education and result in drastic overpayments to charter schools; and these discrepancies in tuition rates for regular education students can vary by almost $13,000 per student and by $39,000 for special education students; and

Whereas, the data from the Pennsylvania School Boards Association shows that in 2018-19, total charter school tuition payments (cyber and brick-and-mortar) were more than $2 billion, with nearly $606 million of that total paid by districts for tuition to cyber charter schools; and

Whereas, the data from the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) shows that in 2017-18, total charter school tuition payments (cyber and brick-and-mortar) were more than $1.8 billion, with $519 million of that total paid by districts for tuition to cyber charter schools; and

Whereas, further analysis of PDE data shows that in 2014-15, school districts paid charter schools more than $100 million for special education services in excess of what charter schools reported spending on special education; and

Whereas, the costs of charter schools for school districts continue to grow significantly each year; and on a statewide basis are the most identified source of pressure on school district budgets; and

Whereas, the need for significant charter school funding reform is urgent; and school districts are struggling to keep up with growing charter costs and are forced to raise taxes and cut staffing, programs and services for their own students in order to pay millions of dollars to charter schools;

Whereas, the West Shore School District’s charter school expenditures since 2009-2010 reflect extraordinary costs that were borne by its taxpayers as follows:

Tuition Paid by the West Shore School District to Charter Schools

Fiscal YearRegular Education TuitionSpecial Education TuitionTotal Tuition
2009-2010*$1,000,218$428,665$1,428,883
2010-2011*$1,184,191$507,510$1,691,701
2011-2012$1,427,007$611,574$2,038,581
2012-2013$1,898,114$492,993$2,391,107
2013-2014*$2,084,546$521,136$2,605,682
2014-2015$2,320,000$580,000$2,900,000
2015-2016$1,732,404$994,648 $2,727,052
2016-2017$1,998,749$1,175,253$3,174,002
2017-2018$2,131,303$1,324,801$3,456,104
2018-2019$2,272,593$1,598,413$3,871,006
2019-2020$2,683,499$2,348,563$5,032,062
2020-2021 as of 1/31/2021$2,563,251$1,789,325$4,352,576

*estimated figures based on available data                      

Now, therefore be it resolved that the West Shore School Board calls upon the General Assembly to meaningfully revise the existing flawed charter school funding systems for regular and special education to ensure that school districts and taxpayers are no longer overpaying these schools or reimbursing for costs the charter schools do not incur. We, along with the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, are advocating for substantial change.

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