October 19, 2021

Pat Crossley: Superintendents: Charter school funding law ‘seriously flawed’

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Pat Crossley talked to three superintendents in central Pennsylvania about that state’s flawed funding law for charter schools, a law that current governor has been trying to change, despite stiff resistance from the charter industry and their supporters.

Although they stressed they were not seeking to end cyber charter schools, three Central Pennsylvania district superintendents, advocated, with a sense of urgency, a reform in the system to eliminate inequities.

Citing unfair funding formulas and the quality of education charter school students receive, superintendents from Keystone Central, State College and Moshannon Valley school districts participated in a virtual discussion seeking to educate the public about the problem.

Dr. Jacquelyn M. Martin, Keystone Central’s superintendent, offered background on her district, which serves 3,700 students in a rural area in Clinton County and additional townships in Potter and Center counties.

“Of the 500 districts in the Commonwealth, our district has the largest geographical footprint as we encompass over 980 square miles,” Martin said.

“Just over half of the real estate in our area is designated as state lands and yields minimum tax revenue. So, you can see how the budget pressures based on charter funding is going to significantly impact our rural district,” she said.

Martin noted that of the district’s $82 million budget, over 11% of the budgeted expenses include charter tuition payments for approximately 500 students.

“These numbers should alarm anyone who understands the current charter tuition funding formula, because what that means in real dollars is that $9 million in tuition costs we pay on annually is also included in our budgeted expenditures. So, a simple calculation demonstrates that charter tuition in our district is automatically inflated by $2,400 per student,” Martin said.

“If charter tuition payments were excluded from the current charter tuition formula, for Keystone, that result would be a reduction of $1.2 million each year,” she continued.

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