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Charter schools really do get less money for children

By the Notebook on Feb 7, 2014 12:56 PM

by Jonathan Cetel

In his recent commentary, Michael Masch, the former chief financial officer of the School District of Philadelphia, seeks to challenge the fact that Philadelphia’s public charter schools receive less per-pupil funding than District-operated schools. His arguments rest on a defense of several of the deductions that the School District of Philadelphia is able to make against its expenditures when calculating the per-pupil allocation to charter schools. Mr. Masch brings considerable authority to the subject, but his analysis fails to consider several important factors.

First, Masch discusses only some of the more than 20 deductions that the state allows districts to make in calculating the per-pupil allocation to charter schools. The deductions he cited for 2011-12, the year he used for comparison, added up to nearly $750 million, but they were not the sum total. Specifically, he failed to mention the “Other Financing Uses” deduction that includes debt service. For the 2013-14 school year, that deduction exceeded $259 million.

Some of these deductions make sense. As Masch mentions, it is fair to deduct Title I expenditures because charter schools can apply directly to the federal government for this grant. Similarly, it is reasonable to deduct for transportation costs that are provided by the District. But it’s unclear why the District should deduct other expenditures, such as debt service and facilities. Remember that the District does not provide rent-free space to charter schools. 

Masch’s calculation that the District’s per-student funding available to schools was $10,140 while funding for charters was $10,380 per student is thus an apples-to-oranges comparison. All of the $10,140 in the District school can be devoted to instruction because the overhead expenses are accounted for elsewhere, while the charters must use some of their per-student allotment for administration, rent, and facility costs.

In addition, some of the other deductions that Masch defends require closer inspection. Consider the $450 million in categorical grants, which includes early childhood programs. Since the District includes pre-K students as part of the student population in calculating the per-pupil expense, they are, in effect, “double-dipping.” As a reminder, the per-pupil spending allocation is calculated by subtracting the deductions from the District’s total expenditures and then dividing by the total number of students. There are thus two ways to deflate the per-pupil allocation: increase the amount of deductions or increase the number of students. By deducting the cost of early childhood programming and including those students as part of the student population, the District is twice deflating the per-pupil allocation. A fairer way would be to either remove the deduction or not include these students as part of the student count in the calculation. 

Finally, Masch concludes by saying that he doesn’t support a “change in the current Pennsylvania charter funding formula that would divert more of the School District of Philadelphia’s funds toward charters and away from District schools.” Instead, he argues that the existing funding formula is working. There is nothing in the proposed legislation that would divert funds away from districts to charter schools, but there are three proposed additions to the number of deductions that districts would be permitted to take before paying the charter schools. If the formula is already working as Masch suggests, the District does not need the additional deductions in the proposed bills.

 As Pennsylvania continues to debate revamping its charter law, it is evident that the discussion would benefit from a rigorous, objective, and exhaustive analysis of the fairness of the per-pupil charter school funding formula. And that’s exactly what both the House and Senate versions of the charter bills call for. Both sides agree that the existing funding formula treats them unfairly ... and both have a valid point of view. 

But let’s begin with an understanding of two basic facts: First, every child in Philadelphia deserves to be provided with enough funding for a high-quality education, regardless of the type of public school they attend. Second, charter schools receive less – not the same, and certainly not more – per-pupil public funding than District operated schools. 

Jonathan Cetel is the the founding executive director of PennCAN: The Pennsylvania Campaign for Achievement Now.  


The opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

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Comments (55)

Submitted by Brian Cohen (not verified) on February 7, 2014 2:46 pm
Jon, Can you please show the calculation you would use instead along with the outputs for cost-per-pupil for District and non-District schools?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 7, 2014 2:53 pm
Remember that time Jon Cetel advocated to withold district funding in exchange for breaking the union? Then remember that time when he claimed that he helped write the teacher evaluation bill, when really, it was done before he started? For more on his shady organization see here: http://dianeravitch.net/category/conncan/
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 7, 2014 2:02 pm
Somebody clarify this. Masch specifically said that debt service was NOT deducted. Cetel says it IS. Who is right?
Submitted by lionshare (not verified) on February 7, 2014 2:02 pm
Cetel has been trying to pass this charter bill for two years. He loses, good day sir! http://www.pennlive.com/editorials/index.ssf/2012/05/pennsylvania_charte...
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 7, 2014 3:48 pm
What about the fact that district schools serve more costly students? Shouldn't the district be permitted to deduct more to reflect the higher numbers of ELL, free / reduced lunch, and students with severe disabilities that they serve?
Submitted by Anonymous on February 7, 2014 3:38 pm
The classic PENNCAN okey doke. In a 500 word essay, Cetel claims that Masch didn't speak of over 20 deductions. Wah Wah, he only outlined 6, in detail and included this http://thenotebook.org/sites/default/files/SDP_2011-12_Per-Student_Suppo... But Cetel's red herrings prevail. The 50 state campaign for achievement now saves the day. More than Cetel did by the way with his shaky ECE point.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 7, 2014 3:02 pm
Different charters cost the district varying amounts of money. Charter schools with many students entering from private and Catholic schools are more costly. Schools with more students entering from public or other charters are less costly. Charter schools that only serve high school also cost less (high school is more expensive than elementary). There should be a real accounting by a neutral third party to see where the money really goes. Charters will say they get less and the district will say charters get more. Remember, Masch was responsible for destroying the budget and costing many people their jobs. His reward, a high paying job in another state.
Submitted by linda (not verified) on February 7, 2014 4:01 pm
All Data is suspect. If you take the kids out of public school and stick them in charter [which one would think by advertising is a better staff, supplies and building] then it is seemingly impossible that the school would be doing better or even more with less. If the public schools have less and the students achieve less then the equation makes sense. Hence, some folks need to show me the math more clearly or could it be that the $$$ is lining charter school pockets just as it had and in some places continues to do so in the public schools? I'm just asking because it does not make sense to me Linda K.
Submitted by Susan Manbeck (not verified) on February 7, 2014 7:52 pm
So where do charter schools get all the money for the huge extras? Check out the number of administrators at the Mastery Shoemaker campus. There are FIVE vice-principals, FIVE deans, in addition to a "Community Engagement and Extra-Curricular Director," and the principal. There were 721 students for the 2012-2013 school year. 12 administrators for one school. An administrator for 60 students. This is not counting the "Attendance Specialist," " Positive Behavior Specialist, "Case Managers" for EACH grade, social worker, "College Advisor," "College Assistant" and "Behavioral Therapist." Take that in. Perhaps if the public schools had that amount of administrators per school there would be better results. I know about Shoemaker. They have "study halls" where they teach to the PSSA and make sure that students get their homework done. Parents are exempt from responsibility. So where are they getting the money for this? Why is Jonathan Cetel adamant about stating that charter schools get less money per pupil? I think it is because he is lying.
Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on February 7, 2014 8:38 pm
Thank you for your post. Mastery is very top heavy with administrators - I guess that is why the principal at Shoemaker can take off and go to DC - there are plenty of other adults to take over. Public schools have no school operations officers, part time nurses, maybe an assistant principals and teachers. Shoemaker also can select its students. It is 7- 12th grade which pumps up test score averages (7th and 8th tend to score better than 11th graders at most schools.) Level playing field - no way!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 8, 2014 7:47 am
I always hear that charters "can select its students." I am not sure if that is 100% true. But, I do know they force students that do not "fit" out of their schools. Being an SEL, I am in contact with many charter schools and receive countless Evals and IEPs from them. I also speak to parents as to WHY their children are no longer attending charters and have come back to neighborhood schools. Someone needs to look into how some charters change placement on NOREPs without data, how some charters refuse to evaluate certain students and tell parents that they should ask their neighborhood school to do so, and how some parents are notified that their student's placement will be changed (for example from itinerant learning support to full time emotional support) if they keep their child in the charter. This is one way charters can "select" who they want to keep in their schools.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on February 8, 2014 1:48 pm
Anonymous SEL, You are absolutely right! I am a Special Education Teacher and my SEL has also dealt with the students with IEPs who come from charter schools. The charter schools do not serve the same students that District-run schools do, especially when it comes to students with Autism, Emotional Disturbance, and Intellectual Disability. It would be a great idea if the Notebook asked a Special Education Liaison to talk about what they see with regard to students coming from charter schools. Even better, ask some parents of students with IEPs to talk about the issue. It's hard to talk in specifics because the information is confidential. Only a parent/guardian could disclose the specifics about his/her child in an article. I'm all about having sources, but as a teacher, I can't state specifics on this website. But I can second your account because I know that my SEL has seen the same thing. Educator of Great Students
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 10, 2014 10:24 pm
I took your above comment and made some small corrections You are absolutely right! I am a Special Education Teacher and my school has also dealt with the students with IEPs who come from district schools. The district schools do such a poor job serving students with IEPs that many leave the district in frustration in search of more personalized support. I've also seen many students with clear special education needs comes from district schools with no IEPs at all. It would be a great idea if the Notebook asked a Special Education Liaison to talk about what they see with regard to students coming from district schools. Even better, ask some parents of students with IEPs to talk about the issue. It's hard to talk in specifics because the information is confidential. Only a parent/guardian could disclose the specifics about his/her child in an article. I'm all about having sources, but as a teacher, I can't state specifics on this website. But I can second your account because I know that my SEL has seen the same things Charter School Teacher
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 8, 2014 8:08 am
Some charters get additional private (grant/philanthropic) funds. Many of the Renaissance schools receive huge state improvement grants. This money is not provided to neighborhood schools or even other charters. What will happen when this funding goes away? All the staff goes, test scores drop and children are in the same bad situation.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 8, 2014 9:13 am
Susan, If you truly "know" about Shoemaker, you would have stated that teachers and admin are sticking around at the end of the day to provide a safe and comfortable space for kids to get their homework done, instead of "making sure" they get their homework done. If you know kids at all, it is pretty difficult to force them to get their work done. When I worked in the district, there was a mad rush, where most teachers were racing to be the first out of the building, which was and is a total disgrace to the profession. In regards to teaching to the PSSA during "study hall", it should be known that any remediation and/or "test prep" that is happening is occurring, if at all, outside of school hours so that there is no disruption to the instructional hours in the day. In all seriousness, we all need to get to a point where we are learning from each other (charter, public, private, etc.) instead of pointing fingers at who is getting more money, less money, serving more SPED students, etc. Step foot into a Mastery building and it is clear that they are doing something worth investigating in regards to PD, instruction, management, and coaching and I am sure there is value in Mastery and other organizations learning from the district and it would be nice if the PSD would invite Mastery to learn from their best practices:)
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 8, 2014 10:15 am
Please don't lump all of who work for the SPD in the same basket. 1." teachers and admin are sticking around at the end of the day to provide a safe and comfortable space for kids to get their homework done" -- we do the same and call it homework club. 2." When I worked in the district, there was a mad rush, where most teachers were racing to be the first out of the building, which was and is a total disgrace to the profession." Well, maybe you saw that and it was true there but keep in mind, some of those adults have kids of their own, ill parents etc and they just like the other working people in the world show up on time and leave for good reasons that they may not have shared with you. Furthermore, many teachers like myself show up at 7:00 a.m. to prepare for the day including talking to parents and kids either at the school or on the phone in addition to working on papers to aid the kids while they are in school. Staying around til 4 and 5 o'clock does not mean that the teacher is "excellent" any more than the teacher who takes the work home to do after the general work day without pay. 3. " PSSA during "study hall", it should be known that any remediation and/or "test prep" that is happening is occurring, if at all, outside of school hours so that there is no disruption to the instructional hours in the day." Well, in that neither of us is in any of these sessions, it can not be said what they are or are not doing. We in the SDP don't get study halls in that all periods are teaching periods unless it is lunch or your preparation time so, you can not say any further than the time that some teachers volunteer after school as a for sure time when kids can possibly be assisted with the home work. Lastly you say " Step foot into a Mastery building and it is clear that they are doing something worth investigating" and I agree to all. There are shenanigans being pulled in the SDP standard schools, Promise Acads, leadership Acads, charters etc......and it is at the expense of the children. Oddly enough we all seem to know what to do when it is our own flesh and blood what needs to be done, but flounder when it comes to "those other peoples children." Linda K.
Submitted by Susan Manbeck (not verified) on February 8, 2014 11:40 am
For someone touting Shoemaker's assets, you'd think you would post your name. Since this article is primarily about money - and the author is lying in his claims - pointing out the top-heavy administration, who receive high salaries, at the school is relevant. It's not about pointing fingers. It's about relevance. Implying that their teachers - and there is a high attrition rate at the school by the way - do something that SDP teachers do not do is absurd. Many many teachers in the SDP give their time freely and you're being dishonest if you do not acknowledge this.
Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on February 8, 2014 12:51 pm
Two words: Crappy contract. The charters get to spend the money how the principals, teachers, and families think best. In the District, it's how the 220 page contract dictates, no matter the needs for that particular school.
Submitted by tom-104 on February 8, 2014 5:54 pm
You have obviously never been in a Philadelphia public school!
Submitted by David Lapp (not verified) on February 7, 2014 11:42 pm
Jon, It's not accurate to say that, "There is nothing in the proposed legislation that would divert funds away from districts to charter schools." Both SB 1085 and HB 618 would eliminate the ability of school districts to even negotiate caps on enrollment and would also nullify all existing caps. This would, of course, divert substantial funds away from districts to charters, even poorly operated charters. SB 1085 would permit dozens of colleges and universities with no public accountability to authorize unlimited numbers of new charters in any school district in the Commonwealth, which would also divert funds away from districts. And as you say, both bills would also create a commission to "study" charter funding and specifically make recommendations about changes to the existing funding. Whether the composition of that commission would be capable of a "rigorous, objective, and exhaustive analysis" is debatable at best. So Masch certainly had good reason to forewarn changes to the existing system of charter funding. Meanwhile, these two bills that PennCAN supports do nothing to strengthen the ability of districts to revoke or reign in charters that are not an improvement on districts schools. I agree that "every child in Philadelphia deserves to be provided with enough funding for a high-quality education, regardless of the type of public school they attend." This isn't happening. Adding new charters and increasing charter enrollment ensures that the already inadequate funding will be spread even thinner. This is damaging the option of district operated neighborhood schools and perversely decreasing the kind of "choice" that the charter movement was intended to create. David Lapp
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 8, 2014 7:55 am
When did Ed Law Center become the pawn of status quo. There was a time when the Ed Law Center didn't push for any specific model or group. The Center was fully committed to representing the interests of children. That time is gone. Ed Law Center is a political group that is more lobbyist than advocate. What a shame.
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on February 8, 2014 8:31 am
Hi Dave and Jon: Chuckle Chuckle. As you may know I have done a little bit of preliminary research on the issue of Whether charter schools are "public" schools or not. Every legal Opinion which I have found in federal forums have found that charter schools are "not public" schools at all. They are "private business organizations" paid for with taxpayer dollars. In PA they are paid for by local school districts. Both federal District Courts and the National Labor Relations Board use the "Hawkins County Test" handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court. The minority Opinion always seems to be the "actual operations test." Under the Hawkins County test, for an entity to be "public" its board of trustees must be "elected by the general electorate" or "appointed by someone who is elected by the general electorate." The "actual operations test" looks at whether a school is "actually operated" as a public entity and is actually under public control. It does not matter what the state says they are, even if the state's Attorney General declares them public schools -- the courts look to what they actually are. There is no charter school in Pennsylvania which could pass either of those tests. So let's not cling to the "false pretense" that charter schools are public schools -- they are not. All charter schools in PA are private entities paid for at public expense. My theme for the year is -- it is time to be honest. Senate Bill 1085 is an attempt of the privatizers to "circumvent" public processes and locally elected school boards. It attempts to create "backdoor vouchers." I have to chuckle at the use of the term "public charter school" -- there is no such thing in Pennsylvania. Jon, just be honest and say that you represent "charter school operators" and those who want to turn public schools into private businesses. No matter how you twist the figures -- the budget has doubled since charter schools were created in Philadelphia, the number of students is roughly the same, and inflation has only increased, what 10-20 %. So charter schools have not saved us any money, and in fact, they in the end cost us more money. They have not done any better job of educating students, and give students, parents, and teachers -- less rights in schools. The school district, in reality, has very little control over them. Th district can not even close them without "the public" paying for both sides of the litigation which is always extensive. It is amazing to watch as the charter operators have more rights than students and parents in "all of this." So why are we dismantling our public schools and turning them into private businesses called "charter schools?" Just askin.... It seems we should be revising our Charter School Law to make them operate as public schools, with complete transparency under the direct control of locally elected school boards. Democracy Matters -- it really does. Just sayin....
Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on February 8, 2014 12:12 pm
Rich, I'm so sick of your constant nonsense about charters not being public. What is public education to you? I always thought it was about educating the public. No matter their background. That's not happening in most district schools. If it was, you wouldn't have people fleeing for the hills. If you think the process matters more than the outcome for kids and families then by all means, let's get rid of everything not direct democracy. In fact we ought to just home school everyone. But if public education is about whether or not the public is actually getting an education, let's make that the bar, not whether a school is a charter or a district school.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 8, 2014 5:00 pm
It is about Rich's interest group allies getting to run the show, tell everyone what to do. Power politics. Getting more of the dimwits on council, a moron like bob brafy, and other philly machine hacks back into the mix will obviously lead to a golden era in education. Lol. Seriously. Lots of local talent in need of schoolboard work now that traffic court is gone.
Submitted by tom-104 on February 8, 2014 5:31 pm
If charters were public they would operate by the same transparency as public schools. They do not! They conceal salaries and do not follow state environmental, civil rights and labor laws. About charters as public schools: http://tinyurl.com/mccdjqc http://tinyurl.com/l73erpb And for the "sick" part see a doctor.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 8, 2014 6:39 pm
Parents are leaving the public schools (if they fit the charter school criteria) because there has been a systematic cutting of resources and other supports for public schools and building up of charters since the state takeover in 2001. This is all by design. People that teach in public schools wanted to make a difference in the lives of children coming from economically challenged backgrounds. Now they get the same disrespect as the low income families they were trying to help.
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on February 9, 2014 9:44 am
It is good to hear that the Truth makes you react so. Science, Law, Research, Journalism, Literature, Scholarly Works and the First Amendment are all about the "search for truth." The crucial difference is that in a true public school, the students and parents are citizens who come with a "backpack of rights." In a charter school, students and parents are "customers" with few rights except to walk out the door. The difference is that public schools are "public trusts" and students, parents and their communities are "beneficiaries" of that trust. No matter how you twist it, charter schools in PA are not actually operated as public schools. All of them have privately appointed boards of trustees and are not accountable to the public. They have very little transparency. All of them are privately operated, and many of them create a web of private businesses which profit from the charter schools' funds, as the Auditor General so noted, and therefore, is seeking public engagement sessions about how to make charter schools accountable to the public. I am not the one who goes around creating such groups called the Coalition of Public Charter Schools. That is intentionally designed to mislead. That is, as Diane Ravitch explains so eloquently in her book Reign of Error -- the Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools, part of the "language" of the privatizers who want to turn our schools into markets for profit. My belief is that public schools should be run for the best interests of its students, parents and community, not for the best interests of those who want to profit from our schools. I am sorry if that offends you.
Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on February 10, 2014 9:02 am
If "rights" are what you are interested in, it seems the right to walk out the door is the most significant of all. I take it you are in favor of parent trigger laws then.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 10, 2014 12:20 pm
You aren't paying attention are you. The parent trigger has died because it was good for no one, not even the charter companies.
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on February 10, 2014 1:16 pm
No, the most significant right of them all is the right to participate in the governance of your public school, as thereby, a student gains the right to a "Free and Appropriate Public Education." Instead of being forced to walk away from his public school, then and only then, does the student and his parent have the right to demand that the child receive "appropriate educational services." Yes, in a sense, I guess I do believe in parent, teacher and community trigger laws -- it is called the right to vote for the school board which governs your public school. It is usually known as -- vote the bums out. If you have elected school boards, you never need any such parent trigger laws. You see, Tom, Ben and the boys were really Great thinkers. You see, no matter how we twist and squirm, we can just not escape -- the Imperative of Democracy.
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on February 10, 2014 2:03 pm
I'm sorry, I was not real clear. There is a big difference between the "rights of a citizen" and the "rights of a customer." The right to walk out the door is the only right a "Customer" has. A "Citizen" in a public school has a bundle of rights. One of the rights a citizen has, is the right to change his public school through public processes. Why would anyone advocate for a public school system which gives students, parents, teachers and the community -- less rights in schools?
Submitted by Education Grad ... on February 8, 2014 1:20 pm
Mr. Cetel, First, I currently work for the School District of Philadelphia, but I also have worked at two charter schools (both run by the same organization). In other words, I have seen both types of schools. Regarding Mr. Masch, you state that "Specifically, he failed to mention the “Other Financing Uses” deduction that includes debt service." Actually, Mr. Masch does mention debt service, in the paragraph after the paragraph about Food Service: $80 million: "Included in the calculations of per-student spending in District schools are annual debt service payments, costs that do not make their way to schools and classrooms to help with current operating expenses. If that figure is deducted from the calculation, spending per student in District schools in 2011-12 was lower than the amount available to charters – just $8,661 per student." So Mr. Masch did account for the debt service, although it appears he may have done so in a different way than you did. You state that "All of the $10,140 in the District school can be devoted to instruction because the overhead expenses are accounted for elsewhere, while the charters must use some of their per-student allotment for administration, rent, and facility costs." There are some caveats to this statement. - First, the fact that charters must use some of the per-pupil payments to pay rent and facility costs is inefficient, is it not? The public is paying not only for the SDP's facilities costs but also for what each charter school (which isn't using a District-owned building) spends on facilities and rent. Since many charter schools occupy buildings which the District does not own, more public money is going to pay facilities costs because, as you point out, charter schools must spend some of their funds to pay for rent and facility costs. One could argue that a better use of the money is for it to go toward instruction instead of facilities costs. - A number of charter schools have built brand new buildings with public money. Examples are Discovery Charter School, which has a new building less than a block from the closed Joseph Leidy Elementary School, and Pan American Academy Charter School. But who owns these buildings? What happens if one of these schools closes or loses its charter? Would the District take possession of the building or would it belong to a private organization or LLC? - Going back to the issue of debt service, according to Mr. Masch, debt service is included in the per-pupil calculations, meaning that NOT all of the $10,140 can be devoted to instruction in District schools. So in reality, it appears that not all of the per-pupil payments for District-run schools can go directly into instructional costs. Another point to consider is that charter schools have first priority to receive money from the Commonwealth. For example, if charter schools break contracts they signed with the SDP by exceeding enrollment caps, the PDE will divert money from the SDP---money which would go to District-run schools---to charter schools: "Pa. took $8.7 million from Philadelphia School District, gave it to charters" http://thenotebook.org/blog/135664/pa-took-87-million-philadelphia-schoo.... The article states that "Timothy Eller, the PDE press secretary, said Pennsylvania charter school law requires the department to automatically reimburse any charter school that claims it has not been paid by a traditional school district." He is quoted as saying that “'The department’s role is to work to make that charter school whole, and then have the district object to that ruling.'" The per-pupil amount is a moot point if charter schools have first priority to the money and the District receives what's left over. Where are the sources to support your arguments? Mr. Masch includes a diagram of budget line items. Mr. Masch, who oversaw the budget for the School District of Philadelphia, would know intricate details about how the budget works. What qualifications or knowledge do you have to dispute what he is saying? Again, where are your sources? Finally, I have a question about your organization, PennCAN. According to PennCAN's website, "At PennCAN, all of our advocacy begins with research. What are the problems? What are the proven solutions?" (http://penncan.org/research) - First, what kind of research are you using? Is it research from peer-reviewed scientific publications? - Second, Your organization uses the A - F grading system for schools. What research supports grading schools using a letter grade (A - F) system? - Third, I took a social scientific research methods class in college. One thing I learned was that to say that there are "proven solutions" is unscientific. In science, there is no such thing as proof. Science can disprove, but cannot prove anything. The scientific process involves using the weight of the evidence in order to support or disprove a hypothesis. A hypothesis becomes stronger when replication of experiments provide consistent support for that hypothesis. Research is only as good as the process utilized to conduct it. I look forward to your responses. Sincerely, Educator of Great Students
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 10, 2014 6:34 pm
Great post. I wait alongside you.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 10, 2014 10:55 pm
It's totally inefficient for charters to buy or rent buildings when the district has empty ones. But charters want to rent or buy buildings, but often the district doesn't want to negotiate or work on a timeline that makes sense for anyone other than themselves. And let me guess, you're probably against what they do in NYC where charters get free space in district buildings, right? If that was offered in Philadelphia then I agree it would make sense to deduct the debt service for facilities since charters would be benefiting just like district schools. Until then, charters unfairly get less money per student because the district is spending money on financing construction when they have dozens of empty buildings.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 10, 2014 10:34 pm
It's totally inefficient for charters to buy or rent buildings when the district has empty ones. But charters want to rent or buy buildings, but often the district doesn't want to negotiate or work on a timeline that makes sense for anyone other than themselves. And let me guess, you're probably against what they do in NYC where charters get free space in district buildings, right? If that was offered in Philadelphia then I agree it would make sense to deduct the debt service for facilities since charters would be benefiting just like district schools. Until then, charters unfairly get less money per student because the district is spending money on financing construction when they have dozens of empty buildings.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 8, 2014 1:29 pm
Wissahickon Charter is building a new school down the street from Roosevelt which is now K-8. I am sure the new building will be state of the art. The Roosevelt building is almost 100 years old and desperately lacking in technology. How can Roosevelt really compete with that? Where did Wissahickon get the money to build a new school? Can Roosevelt at least be brought into the 21st century?
Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on February 8, 2014 2:07 pm
Wissihickon Charter is one of the Philadelphia School Dictatorships "chosen" schools. They also receive public funding to build a new building. Yes, it is not a level playing field when District schools are falling apart and old while charters have much nicer facilities. As a parent, we obviously would prefer a newer building. Many District buildings are not "healthy."
Submitted by Education Grad ... on February 8, 2014 9:28 pm
Looking at the application packet, it appears that Wissahickon Charter School may also have barriers to entry. Here are the documents that they require for enrollment: • A copy of the student’s end of the year report card (1st -6th) • A copy of the student’s current report card (1st-6th) • A copy of the most recent PSSA scores (or other Standardized Test scores) • A copy of recent medical records (including immunization) • A copy of the student’s Birth Certificate • A copy of proof of residency • A copy of the student’s Special Education IEP (voluntary) • A copy of your government issued ID • A copy of the student’s medical card Is it legal for a school to ask for the student's previous report cards, PSSA scores, IEP, and medical card?
Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on February 9, 2014 11:49 am
Also can not ask for a government ID (e.g. social security). Anyone may attend K-12 including undocumented students. I don't think there are many ELLs at Wissahickon.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 8, 2014 7:49 pm
The charters have so much money that they have large "equity" balances. The reason they do is because they don't provide all the services that the school district does. They also don't pay their teachers anything. Their CEOs are really just overpaid principals.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 8, 2014 7:22 pm
The charters have so much money that they have large "equity" balances. The reason they do is because they don't provide all the services that the school district does. They also don't pay their teachers anything. Their CEOs are really just overpaid principals.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 8, 2014 7:40 pm
The charters have so much money that they have large "equity" balances. The reason they do is because they don't provide all the services that the school district does. They also don't pay their teachers anything. Their CEOs are really just overpaid principals.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 8, 2014 7:42 pm
The charters have so much money that they have large "equity" balances. The reason they do is because they don't provide all the services that the school district does. They also don't pay their teachers anything. Their CEOs are really just overpaid principals.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 8, 2014 7:43 pm
The charters have so much money that they have large "equity" balances. The reason they do is because they don't provide all the services that the school district does. They also don't pay their teachers anything. Their CEOs are really just overpaid principals.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 8, 2014 7:55 pm
The charters have so much money that they have large "equity" balances. The reason they do is because they don't provide all the services that the school district does. They also don't pay their teachers anything. Their CEOs are really just overpaid principals.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 9, 2014 2:10 pm
Check your facts on district fund balances. http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/cityhall/Pa-schools-and-the--behind-t...
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 9, 2014 12:09 pm
Only 75% of charter teachers have to certified, but 100% public school teachers have to certified. Why is it that every teacher in a charter school does not have to be a certified teacher?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 10, 2014 12:13 pm
Better question is why every teacher in the district has to be certified? Certification was created at the union's behest to create a professional barrier to entry, justify higher salaries and support the fiction that the only things that determine teacher quality is longevity and the number of Ed class merit badges. Certification is no guaranty of quality. Top private schools hire teachers, many of them uncertified, but with advanced degrees in their subject matter. Of course you need competent management to identify good teachers and the flexibility to weed out those who aren't good. This is not possible in the district.
Submitted by Michael Masch (not verified) on February 9, 2014 2:04 pm
A few responses to Jon Cetel's piece. First, I repeat that Cetel and other charter advocates are simply wrong when they argue that Philadelphia charters are being short-changed and receive less per student funding than the School District of Philadelphia spends on its District-operated schools. The critique Jon has offered of my January 30, 2014 commentary does nothing to change that. I will explain why below. Cetel's response rests on confusion regarding two related but different data points, and two different methodologies used to compute those two data points. To determine whether charters get less in per student funding than the SDP spends per student in district-operated schools, we need to determine two things: (1) how much in per student funding charters receive from the SDP, and (2) how much the SDP spends per student in district-operated schools. There is no disputing how the calculation of mandatory per student charter payments is carried out. The methodology is determined by state law and is enforced uniformly on all PA school districts by the PA Department of Education through what is known as the PDE-363 process.. What charter advocates have long argued is that the state's 363 process is unfair to charters -- specifically, that it gives charters too little of each school district's money -- because the process takes all expenditures of a school district in a given year, makes certain deductions from that total, and then divides all remaining spending by the total number of public school students in the subject school district in the same year (i.e., all students attending district-run schools and all students attending charter schools). The resulting number becomes that school district's per student payment amount to charters in the subsequent year. (The process is actually a little more complicated. There is one process to determine the "regular" per student payment, and another to determine the per student payment for Special Ed students. Charters make out very well under the SPED formula, however, so they don't complain about that one.) Charter advocates' basic argument about the 363 process is that the 363 deductions are too large, unfair, illogical, etc. Whether the advocates have a case depends on how you answer two questions: Question #1: Are the mandated deductions unfair, illogical, or excessive? Question #2: Even if the 363 methodology SEEMS reasonable, does it produce an unreasonable result, i.e., does it give charters significantly less school district funding per student than school districts spend in their district-operated schools? The Catch-22 here is that to answer question #2 you have to answer yet another question: Question #3: What is the appropriate way to determine how much school districts spend per student in their district-operated schools? My January 30 piece attempted to answer Question # 1 and Question #3, because it is only when you do that that you can address the really critical question -- which is Question #2. Jon Cetel's critique mixes up my analysis addressing Question #1 and my analysis addressing Question #3 and then uses his incorrect representation of what I actually said to critique my conclusions. So let me attempt to clarify and restate my analysis and conclusions, in particular with a little more focus on how the 363 process works, and also with more detail on how I calculated per student spending in district-operated schools. On Question #1, I do not believe that charter advocates are correct in their assertion that the deductions used in the PDE-363 process to determine mandated per student school district payments to charters are excessive, illogical or otherwise unfair. I think the deductions generally make sense. They are certainly not illogical. (I will explain why, in detail, below.) On Question #3, I do not believe that charter advocates are correct when they attempt to calculate what they purport to be the "per student spending in district-operated schools" by deducting only payments to charters from total annual school district expenditures and then divide the resulting total by the number of students attending district-operated schools. As I said in my January 30 piece, this exaggerates the amount spent per student in district-run schools by including many categories of expenditure that are inappropriate and do not contribute to operating spending per student in district-run schools. (Again, more detail below.) When you think about it, charter advocates really want to "have their cake and eat it too" on this issue. They reject the deductions made from total spending as excessive when the deductions are being used to determine what charters should receive in funding, but they are all for making NO deductions from spending when calculating per student spending in district-operated schools. These are clearly inconsistent and contradictory arguments, but note that if these arguments were to be embodied in law and in policy, they would both contribute to the same result -- district-operated schools would get less of each school district's available resources, and charters would get more. In the end, each of us as citizens and advocates has to make our own judgment about these two types of deductions -- the deductions used to determine per student funding for charter schools and the deductions used to determine per-student spending in district-operated schools. So below I will present and assess ALL of the deductions currently used in the 363 process to determine per student funding for charters, and then I will explain the deductions I used to attempt to determine per student spending in district-operated schools. You can then decide whether you think these deductions are reasonable. If you do, then you will affirm my conclusion that charter schools are NOT getting less in per student funding. Here are the PDE-363 deductions, taken from the SDP's 2012-13 PDE-363 submission: SCHOOL DISTRICT OF PHILADELPHIA PDE Form 363 - 2012-13 Data Used to Calculate SDP 2013-14 Per Student Charter Payments DEDUCTIONS FROM THE GROSS SPENDING TOTAL 1. SDP Federal Funding (not sharable with charters) a Regular Ed (mostly Title I) $183,960,327 b Voc Ed $1,710,176 c Other Instructional Programs $22,405,612 d PreK $68,770,993 e Pupil Personnel $10,923,199 f Instructional Staff $44,730,622 g Administration $13,892,150 h Pupil Health $1,029,294 i Business $3,421,595 j Op / Maint Plant $1,313,743 k Central $5,752,643 l Other Support $595,286 m Operations - Noninstructional $4,055,006 1. Total Federal Exclusions $362,560,646 (Comment: not sharable with charters - (a) grants to specific schools/programs that may not be shared; (b) grants for programs -- e.g., pre-K -- charters don't offer; (c) grants where charters get same funding directly from Fed + PA govts) 2. Student Transportation $125,094,667 (Comment: not sharable with charters - covers the cost of transportation for all students in district-run, nonpublic AND charter schools) 3. Adult Education Programs $124,835 (Comment: not sharable with charters - charters don’t and aren't mandated to provide this service; funding is for specific SDP programs and may not be diverted) 4. SDP State Funding - PreK Counts $20,238,084 (Comment: not sharable with charters - charters don’t and aren't mandated to provide this service; funding is for specific SDP programs and may not be diverted -- note: charters claim that students in district early childhood programs are counted in district total enrollment and therefore charters should get a portion of SDP pre-K grants, but only a small percentage of SDP pre-K students are counted in the SDP enrollment total (because their programs are funded with a mixture of grant and operating funding); most are not counted -- in any event, the SDP cannot give some of its restricted Pre-K grants to charters; charters could attempt to convince the Commonwealth to exclude these students from the enrollment count, as this was a state decision -- not the SDP, but the number of students involved is so small that it would do very little to change the PDE-363 payment amounts) 5. Other Financing Uses (Debt Service) $259,098,505 (Comment: this is a fixed legal obligation of the SDP -- if some of the funds were diverted to charters, the SDP could not pay its full legally-mandated debt -- also, note that none of this spending supports the current operation of district-operated schools -- its pays for debt-funded construction spending from years and decades ago.) TOTAL DEDUCTIONS USED IN CALCULATION $767,116,737 OF 2013-14 REGULAR ED PER STUDENT CHARTER PAYMENTS SPECIAL EDUCATION $440,639,298 This amount is deducted from the "Regular" Ed per student payment calculation for charters ONLY because SPED spending is used to calculate SDP SPED per student payments to charters. (Note: Payments to Other Institutions are included in this deduction) Note that while Jon Cetel claimed that I had failed to itemize all of the PDE-363 deductions, he arrived at this conclusion by ignoring the fact that 13 of the deductions are all really just sub-totals of the overall Federal grant deduction, which I explained at some length in my commentary on January 30. So that is how the PDE-363 deduction process works. Reasonable? You decide. Now here are the deductions I used to determine per student spending in the SDP's district-operated schools. Remember that when charter advocates say that SDP charter funding is only 70% or 80% of spending in the SDP's district-operated schools, they get to that result by counting all of the spending listed in the categories below as "operating spending in district-operated schools." And then they compare the result per student to what charters receive in per student SDP funding. So if you agree that these expenditures are NOT appropriately attributable as part of per student operating expenditures in SDP district-operated schools, you are concluding that charter advocates' claims of being shortchanged do not have merit. Note that in each case, I address whether the deduction is also made in the PDE-363 process. If it is not, I explain why. Again, you decide. Masch Exclusions from SDP Spending Used to Determine SDP Operating Expenditures Per Student in District Operated Schools Exclusions Made in Masch DOS Per Pupil Exp Analysis Payments to Charter Schools ($535M in 2011-12) Same as PA-363? Not applicable for 363 since 363 is used to determine the charter payments -- illogical to deduct from PDE363 but logical to deduct in determining spending in district-operated schools Trasnportation ($140M in 2011-12) Same as PA-363? Yes, also deducted in PDE-363 Education of Children in Institutions ($65M in 2011-12) Same as PA-363? Deducted as part of PDE-363 "Special Ed" deduction. Should not be included as part of the PDE-363 base for calculating SPED per student payments, since these costs do not support Special Ed students either in charters or district-operated schools, but apparently it is Services to Nonpublic Schools ($17M in 2011-12 - 100% PA funded) Same as PA-363? Should be deducted in 363 but apparently is not. Central Offices ($72M in 2011-12) Same as PA-363? Only Federal costs are excluded in the PDE-363 but logically ALL Central Office costs should be deducted as they do not directly support the operation of district-operated schools Categorical Grants - Federal + PA ($450M in 2011-12) (Food Service omitted - not in Op Bgt) Same as PA-363? Yes, also deducted in PDE-363 Excluded because the goal of the methodology is to determine Operating Budget SDP per student spending in district-operated schools. Since many SDP grants are not "sharable" and others are received both by charters and district-operated schools, leaving grants out of the analysis presents a true "apples to apples" comparison between SDP charter per student funding and SDP District-op school per student spending. TOTAL EXCLUSIONS $707M Exclusions Made in PDE 363 NOT Made in Masch DOS Per Pupil Exp Analysis Debt Service ($225M in 2011-12) There are good arguments to exclude the SDP's debt service from per student expenditures in district-operated schools, as this spending does not directly benefit direct instruction or school operations in district-operated schools, but because of charter advocates' strong objections to the PDE-363 debt service deduction, debt has been left in the school expenditures total simply to show that EVEN IF YOU DO leave it in, per student spending in District-operated schools is STILL not higher than SDP per student payments to charters. If debt service payments ARE deducted, then per student spending in district-operated schools would be substantially LOWER than SDP per student payments to charter schools.
Submitted by Jonathan Cetel (not verified) on February 9, 2014 6:02 pm
I’m glad to see that this post has resulted in a lively discussion. I’ll do my best to respond to the folks who respectfully shared their disagreements or asked thoughtful questions: David, I was specifically challenging the argument that the bills would change the actual per-pupil allocation. The only changes to the per-pupil allocation in SB1085 and HB618 are additional deductions that would REDUCE the per-pupil allocation to charters. And the bills include several other provisions that provide fiscal relief to Districts, including: the elimination of the pension double dip, unassigned fund balance limits, and additional cuts to cyber charter schools. You express skepticism that a commission could produce fair results. I learned to believe in commissions in part from some of the successes of ELC! You have championed commissions as a way to win a fairer basic education funding formula and a special-education formula. If a commission worked under Governor Rendell for basic-ed and under Governor Corbett for special-ed, why can’t it work for the charter funding formula? Finally, I disagree that the bill does nothing to hold bad charters accountable. Both bills include an “academic performance matrix” which is an objective metric that all authorizers must use to evaluate performance, an idea that PennCAN has strongly supported. If there are additional good policy ideas to provide districts with tools to close low-performing schools, PennCAN would be supportive, but I’m unaware of any ideas that the associations or other advocacy groups are asking for. Brian, the purpose of this commentary was to respond to Masch’s argument, not to offer my own ideas to improve the funding formula. That’s because doing so is way outside of my paygrade and also because I’ve been supportive of the idea of creating a bi-partisan commission to study the issue. My hope is they will fix the things that are unfair to districts (e.g. pension double dip) in exchange for figuring out some way to increase facilities funding for charters. That could be a more robust charter lease reimbursement, getting rid of the facilities deduction from the PDE-363, or requiring Districts to give their underutilized buildings to charters, among other ideas. Rich, the only thing I think we will agree on here is that the phrase “public charter school” probably doesn’t make sense. For you, it’s because you don’t believe charter schools are public. To me, it’s because all charter schools are public so it’s actually redundant to say “public charter school.” Michael, you end your initial commentary with the statement that there is “no basis for a change in the current Pennsylvania charter funding formula” and conclude with the line that the formula is “not broken” and “does not need to be changed.” Yet in your comment below, you argue that the entire central office should be deducted instead of just the federally-funded expenditures. The reason you cite is that they “do not directly support the operation of district-operated schools.” I'm fairly certain you aren't really suggesting that nobody in 440 supports the operation of SDP schools. When I was a teacher in the District, we used to make jokes about that, but I now realize how hard the overstretched folks at 440 are working to support District operated schools. If, instead, the key word here is “direct” support and what you really mean is that they shouldn’t count because they aren’t in schools, then we are back to the apples and oranges comparison. In order to compare the true charter per-pupil to the District per-pupil, then we’d have to deduct all of the non-instructional expenditures from charters, too. Ultimately, this debate is academic unless we connect this to something actionable. The General Assembly is working on a charter reform package that will include many items that most Notebook readers support: increased academic accountability; clearer guidelines around ethics, conflicts of interests, and enrollment barriers; fiscal relief to Districts in the form of additional deductions, cuts to cyber schools, and the elimination of the double-dip. And most relevant for this conversation, a funding commission to study the charter school funding formula. If folks have questions about the bill or strong ideas on how to improve it, I encourage you to contact you state representative or feel free to reach out to me directly. My email is jonathan.cetel@penncan.org. I’ll respond to any questions or ideas as long as it isn’t from an anonymous sender and doesn’t contain any rude or inappropriate remarks.
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on February 10, 2014 7:44 am
John: My Opinions are based on legal analysis of several cases which were actually decided by real Courts of law that have actually considered the legal issue of whether charter schools are public or private. They are not public by any legal or logical definition of public. Charter schools are private businesses paid for with public funds. What the charter school movement has become is far from what charter schools were supposed to be. The privatization of the American schoolhouse is the major issue in education today. Here is a case which was decided by a federal appellate court which will explain it to you: http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2010/01/04/08-15245.pdf Here is a NLRB case which will explain it to you further: http://www.nlrb.gov/case/13-RM-001768 Perhaps you should read Diane Ravitch's book: The Reign of Error -- The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools. I have nothing against charter schools -- I am for them. Just as long as they are "actually operated" as public schools and they are governed by the local school boards -- for the best interests of children and not for the pecuniary interests of who owns them. Democracy Matters in the governance of public schools. Think a little deeply about it....
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on February 10, 2014 8:15 am
PS. Jon, for the NLRB case cited above, just hit the link to "Board decision." That cases is one of the best legal analyses of the question of whether charter school are public or private. No matter how the tale is twisted, the charter school movement in Philadelphia has "not reduced the costs of of schools" and has, in fact "increased costs to the taxpayers" because of all of the additional expenses paid for by the district which includes the costs of both sides of litigation. The charter schools give citizens and students of Philadelphia and PA -- less rights in schools. Barriers to entry are at the top of the list. And finally, the evidence is clear they do not provide any collective increase in achievement. So why is that they are promoted by anyone?
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on February 10, 2014 12:17 pm
Mr. Cetel, the idea behind the current charter reimbursement/funding formula is fine. If charters are paid what the local district spends on instruction (including supporting admin), then costs which are affected by locale are accounted for. The problems are in implementing this "fairness". Philadelphia presents a special case not accounted for in most other State Districts, in that there has been a marked flight of families with school age children from the City/county, and thus a continued decline in enrollment. What this does is create a higher "unused capacity" and inflated per child expenditure that charters, which are starting out, do not have to deal with. I am surprised that Mr. Masch does not go over this factor, as he was present when the FMP, Facilities Master Plan, was commissioned. In this plan it explains that "unused capacity" is not just capital expenditures, but also human resources. There needs to be a correction factor that takes into consideration utilization and behavioral needs. There is a wide spread between the per child expenditure of schools like Central which spend roughly $5,600 per child and neighborhood high schools which spend twice this (look at their school budgets). Some of this will be corrected with the closures that the SDP has recently implemented, but per the last U.S. Census, the declining trend still exists. I have contacted my State Rep about this, but I don't have high hopes that financial analysis can be separated from political objectives. My reply link here on the Notebook does not work for some reason. Ultimately, charters are only offering "innovation" in terms of existing outside of the bureaucracy because the basic classroom/Industrial Revolution model still holds. The difference this makes may be enough, the "jury is still out" there. At a gut (math) level, I believe charters do cost the taxpayer more. Individual units with fewer shared resources will always cost more. (That is if we aren't shorting the teachers). Take just the example of administrative costs (currently included with instruction costs). I believe Mr. Stanski has said that the Central Office is roughly 3% of the SDP's Operating Budget: http://thenotebook.org/blog/135942/districts-central-office-grew-2012-bu.... Which then if instruction is 2/3 this budget would estimate 5% of instruction cost - not a high percentage. Apparently Chester Community Charter spends 40% ( http://articles.philly.com/2005-08-25/news/25424898_1_charter-schools-ch... ) The norm (per the same article) for charters being 16%.
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on February 10, 2014 1:00 pm
For Mr. Cetel: If charters actually do cost less per child, then we should see a drop in the per child spending in Philly as the charters have grown. Is this so?
Submitted by David Lapp (not verified) on February 13, 2014 2:54 pm
Jon, I’m late getting back to this and would probably be wiser to let it die, but on a snowy day I’ll offer one more response to your response to my response to your response to Michael! At ELC, we certainly don’t always get everything right, but we try to be clear about our biases and intentions with regard to public education – we advocate for adequate resources for public schools systems that serve the most traditionally vulnerable students and then we represent students to ensure their rights are protected and they receive appropriate services. We believe most schools in communities that serve high numbers of these students are woefully underfunded and that the system for distributing funds is unfair. It’s tough for those schools to provide adequate services to their students. In the past we have championed state funding commissions that we believed would research these same conclusions. Personally, I would welcome a new balanced commission or a study conducted by qualified researchers that was designed to look systemically at adequate resources for all schools, including charter schools that improve on the existing system, and the fiscal impact of charters on the system as a whole. I believe such a study would reach the same conclusion as the last study, there’s a massive adequacy gap and that unregulated charter expansion inefficiently spreads the funding even thinner. But a commission is only as worthwhile as its mandate and who it’s comprised of. I’m sure PennCAN and the charter lobby would not be supporting a commission comprised of members primarily appointed by someone who has been hostile to charters and charged narrowly with exploring only the fiscal impact of charter expansion on school districts (while ignoring the funding needs of the charter schools) in order to recommend changes to state law. (Neither would I, for the record). So it’s disingenuous to represent that the commission you are advocating for in SB 1085 is balanced, when it is charged with the opposite of what I describe above – making recommendations based only on charter funding needs, while ignoring the impact of charter expansion on local community school districts. And the makeup of the charter funding commission in SB 1085 is not designed to be bi-partisan. The commission will consist of 18 members. Only 2 of those members would be appointed by democrats. 2 appointed by Dems, 16 appointed by Republicans. And 11 of those 16 would be appointed directly by Governor Corbett. (Anyone who would like to read the bill can find it here - http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/billInfo/billInfo.cfm?sYear=2013&sIn.... The funding commission is addressed in SECTION 1704-A). So what are PennCAN and the charter lobby seeking from a commission? Clearly you do not think charters receive adequate funds. I agree that most charters are probably underfunded, at least with regard to brick and mortar charters, and that’s because they are overwhelmingly located in underfunded school districts. But that does not mean charter funding should be increased on the backs of the neighborhood schools of those same school districts. I do not think you should be promoting a bill that permits any charter school, regardless of performance and regardless of the kinds of students it serves, to add as many students (at the expense of neighborhood district schools) as it wants, and for a commission that would be comprised primarily of charter-friendly members and charged only with exploring charter needs, while ignoring district needs. And of course, there’s the expansion that would come from the unproven addition of dozens of colleges to have the power to authorize charters. The claims of research to support that was debunked by Research for Action (http://www.researchforaction.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/RFA-Policy-N...). The modest improvements in the bill (many of which are already law and would simply be codified in the CSL) are overshadowed by these major giveaways to unregulated charter expansion. When charters, as a whole, are underserving vulnerable student populations (http://webgui.phila.k12.pa.us/uploads/hJ/YF/hJYF96MDA0yxcVjx8ClCJw/ELC-A...) and still not showing marked improvement on the system as a whole, we should not be bleeding additional resources from neighborhood district schools. I support strategic use of charters that are designed to serve particular neighborhoods and granted to experienced operators. So I think the Renaissance process created by the district is vastly superior to what exists in the charter school law and what would be created under 1085 or 618. But you asked for some ideas on how to hold charters more accountable in the charter law. Here are a few of what I consider to be common sense reforms: - The default under the charter law needs to allow authorizers to set strict enrollment caps. (Yes, this is an accountability tool). - Charters that demonstrate over time that they equitably serve vulnerable student populations on par with or in excess of their authorizing district, follow the same enrollment and withdrawal rules as comprehensive district schools, protect the rights of students and consistently exceed the performance of the district schools they are chartered by should be permitted gradual expansion, conditioned upon continued superior performance. Otherwise, what’s the point? Why throw away a system (even a bad system that’s never been properly resourced) only to replace it with an equally bad system? (Measuring “performance” is tricky, but whatever the metric, it must consider the kinds of students the school educates and it must allow authorizing districts charged with designing the system of public education in their communities to have input and some discretion. There would be a performance metric to be developed under 1085, though again, the department is supposed to consult with charters and NOT with districts in developing that metric. Why not? It also leaves no discretion for local communities to alter the metric and establishes no threshold requirement of exceeding the performance of authorizing districts, which makes no sense. And there’s no assurance that charters would have to equitably serve all students). - Charters must backfill. Charters that have space, as determined by their enrollment cap, must enroll new students at all times of the year and in all grades, just like traditional public schools. When a student leaves a charter, a new student seeking enrollment must be permitted to enroll. The ability to control enrollment creates a major competitive advantage and is not replicable on a systemic scale, so again, what’s the point of permitting it in a charter school? (Note, there are some improvements to the enrollment provisions in 1085, (to go along with the destructive elimination of even negotiated caps) but even these still allow the same problem of charters determining their own capacity at any given time. It is no surprise that this dynamic results in some charters finding themselves “full” when it’s convenient for them.) - For the same reasons, the enrollment capacity and the enrollment numbers of each charter should be publicly posted and updated in real time to allow parents / students to know if they have a right to enroll. - The law should require that charters leave a certain percentage of enrollment slots open to serve their fair share of transient students – homeless, foster, migrant, etc. - Charters must be required to document disaggregated data about the numbers and the kinds of students who withdraw and the reasons for their withdrawal. Some do. Many do not. (Yes, district schools should do this too!) - The burden of proof in funding disputes should be switched from districts and onto charters, which actually hold the evidence regarding the number of students they are serving. No disputed funding should be withheld from districts until charter have met that burden at an impartial hearing. - The CAB and the courts should grant a higher level of deference to a district’s decision to revoke or deny a charter. (It should be an abuse of discretion standard, rather than de novo). Currently the CAB only needs to give “due consideration” to a districts findings which is less than even de novo. - Similarly, the evidentiary burden with regard to charter revocation should be lowered. As it currently stands, under CAB precedent, a district must produce “substantial evidence of compelling violations.” In practice, this has set a bar that’s too high, too costly, and too time-consuming for successful revocation. I don’t think any of these ideas are unreasonable or “anti-charter.” They are “pro good-charter” and pro-systemic improvements. There are numerous excellent charters in Philadelphia that would be permitted to expand under this framework. Many poor charters would be more readily revoked. But the charter lobby has not supported these ideas. David

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