Charter school funding needs reform, say local superintendents

Written by on May 23, 2022

Charter school funding needs reform, say local superintendents

By Hayden Mitman
May 23, 2022

Public schools say they can educate just as well as charters and more economically. (Photo | Creative Commons)

Local school superintendents are calling for reforms on how charter schools are funded. 

They met virtually Friday with the Keystone Center for Charter Change which is part of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.

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According to the center, every year public school districts pay more than $3 billion to charter schools in the state. The center also claims that over the past 12 years, charter school costs to taxpayers have ballooned by more than 250%. 

These funds are taken from districts where charters get their students. 

Jennifer Holman, superintendent of the Northwestern Lehigh School District, said the impact on already cash-strapped districts can be significant.

“For example, at Northwestern Lehigh, in [school year] 2022-23, we are expected to spend nearly $2.1 million of our $50 million budget on approximately 120 students attending charter schools,” she said.    

Holman said schools in her district can typically support that same number of students for a fraction of that cost. 

Joseph Roy, superintendent of the Bethlehem Area School District, said charters need more oversight. 

“Pennsylvanians are paying for two publicly funded systems, right? The public schools and the publicly funded but privately run charter industry,” he said, “This money is going to charter schools that are governed by unelected, privately selected school boards. There’s no control—public control, community control—over how they spend these millions, billions of dollars across the state, that’s being sent to them.”   

Roy said that if his schools were reimbursed in the same way as charters, his district would save millions. 

No charter school representative was present at the meeting but proponents of the system argue charters are actually short changed due to the way funding is determined. 

And they’ve said educators should instead pressure lawmakers to make sure there’s a bigger pot of school funding to go around.

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