Dan Hardyon Oct 20, 2014 12:36 PM
With education funds scarce in the commonwealth, the debate over how charter schools get their money has never been more polarized.
The stakes are huge: Last school year, 176 charter schools educated 129,000 students statewide, at a cost to Pennsylvania school districts of more than $1.2 billion. About half those schools and students are located in Philadelphia; they consume 30 percent of the District’s operating budget.
Charter schools are independently run public schools paid for by tax dollars, authorized and primarily funded by the school districts from which their students come. Districts send charters a per-student payment, based on a state-established formula.
Dan Hardyon Oct 20, 2014 12:35 PM
Pennsylvania’s 14 cyber charters enroll more than 36,000 students. Their model is very different from that of school districts – students learn at home via computer and generally don’t go to a physical location. But they are paid based on school district costs, not their actual expenses. In a 2012 report, Auditor General Jack Wagner said that Pennsylvania cybers were getting $105 million more than the national average for cyber spending.
Dan Hardyon Oct 20, 2014 12:36 PM
Pennsylvania’s special education funding system is complicated and in flux. But it has generally discouraged districts from identifying too many special education students while rewarding charters that do so.
Dale Mezzacappaon Oct 2, 2014 10:40 AM
The point of a state education funding formula is to be fair, help all districts reach spending levels adequate to their needs, and adjust for demographic and other changes. Funding should be predictable so that districts can plan.
But Pennsylvania long ago abandoned such a system for distributing education aid, according to advocates and experts. And this has exacerbated inequities among districts and frustrated educators.
There were 2,277 school districts in Pennsylvania. Under Gov. William W. Scranton, a series of consolidations reduced the number of districts to fewer than 700 (it fell to 505 by the late 1970s).
Dale Mezzacappaon Oct 2, 2014 10:37 AM
Although most education funding comes from local sources, all states contribute to school district costs, compensating for differences in property wealth, income levels, and taxing capacity among districts. Most states have a formula that guides how the aid is distributed among districts, based on factors such as enrollment, local wealth, and student characteristics.
Ideally, formulas are designed to make sure all districts have adequate funds and increase equity among districts. The particulars of each formula differ, but normally, richer districts get less state aid, while poorer districts depend on the state for much of their education money.
Paul Jablowon Sep 26, 2014 10:33 AM
Doesn’t Philadelphia get a huge share of state education aid already?
House Majority Leader Mike Turzai made the point when he met with District Superintendent William Hite in August that the city has 12 percent of the state’s school population but receives 18 percent of the state’s basic education subsidy. But Matthew Stanski, Hite’s finance director, says that these numbers alone don’t capture the reality. He gives several reasons. First, Pennsylvania chips in a smaller share of education funding than most other states, so there is less state aid to balance out inequities between districts. But more important, he said, Philadelphia educates more children from low-income backgrounds than any other district. More than 80 percent of Philadelphia students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, almost twice the statewide average of 43 percent. Such a high concentration of poverty comes with added costs to a school district.
Connie Langlandon Sep 25, 2014 12:23 PM
If Gwenevere Washington and her husband lived in the Marple-Newtown School District in the western suburbs, whose property tax rate is the lowest in their county, the school tax bill that arrived in their mailbox midsummer would have totaled about $1,700, even less with the state discount given to senior citizens.
But the Washingtons own a home in Yeadon, a borough less than 10 miles away, down Darby Creek. It is one of six communities that make up the William Penn School District in Delaware County.
The tax bill that arrived in July hit like a hammer. It was $4,000 for the year, less a $400 discount.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, is running for re-election against challenger Tom Wolf, a Democrat, on Nov. 4.