Reform PA Charter Schools

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FAQs

What are charter schools?

Charter schools are publicly-funded, privately-operated schools.

What kinds of charter schools can students attend?

Some charter schools are regular brick-and-mortar school buildings. Others are cyber charter schools. Students who attend cyber charter schools do most of their work at home on a computer and do not attend classes in a school building.

Who can attend a charter school?

Any school-age student in Pennsylvania can attend a charter school.

Who pays for children to attend a charter school?

The school district where the student lives pays tuition for the student to attend a charter or cyber charter school.

Who decides how much tuition my school district pays for a child to attend a charter or cyber charter school?

The tuition rate is set by the PA legislature. It is based on what it costs each school district to educate a student and every school district pays a different amount.

Is tuition for brick-and mortar-charter schools the same as it is for cyber charter schools?

Yes.

How many students attend charter schools in Pennsylvania?

In the 2011-2012 school year approximately 100,000 students attended charter or cyber charter schools.

Why does Pennsylvania have charter and cyber charter schools?

Charter and cyber charter schools are part of the educational landscape in Pennsylvania and offer parents options for their children’s education.

Why should I care about charter and cyber charter schools?

Pennsylvania taxpayers are paying charter and cyber charter schools far more than it costs them to educate students.  Former PA Auditor General Jack Wagner recently reported that PA taxpayers are overpaying charter schools $365 million per year.

In particular, cyber charter schools impose an overwhelming financial burden on many school districts. Cyber charter school operators can educate students for far less than traditional “brick and mortar” charter schools and school districts. Cyber charter schools do not maintain expensive buildings or sports fields and they do not provide students with transportation, yet our state legislature mandates that local school districts pay cyber charter schools based on what it costs a regular school district to educate a student.

Who can fix the funding formula to ensure that taxpayers are not overpaying charter and cyber charter schools?

Our state representatives and senators decide how much local school districts must pay in charter and cyber charter school tuition. Only our state legislators can fix the funding formula.

Why are local school districts paying more than it costs charter and cyber charter schools to educate children?

The tuition school districts pay to charter schools is not based on the charter schools’ costs to educate a child. Instead, the Pennsylvania legislature uses an outdated and flawed formula to set the tuition rates our local school districts must pay to charter schools. These rates are based on the local school districts’ costs to educate children in their own districts.

In Pennsylvania charter school tuition rates for regular education students range from $6,752 to $16,915 per student, depending on the costs of the sending school district. Tuition rates for children with special needs are typically double the regular tuition rates.

Auditor General Jack Wagner found that Pennsylvania taxpayers are overpaying charter and cyber charter schools $365 million each year.

How can non-profit charter and cyber charter schools be making so much money?

While charter and cyber charter schools are non-profit organizations, many of them are operated by for-profit management companies. Local school districts are paying many charter and cyber charter schools more than it costs to educate students, and for-profit management companies are spending taxpayer dollars in questionable ways.

How do some charter and cyber charter schools spend the extra money they do not spend educating children?

Many charter schools spend taxpayer dollars only on programs and services that benefit and educate children.  Unfortunately, the for-profit management companies of some charter schools spend taxpayer dollars for purposes other than educating children.

For example, a recent audit done by PA Auditor General Jack Wagner found that the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School spent $3.5 million taxpayer dollars on advertising from 2008-2010. Since 2007, the educational management company K12, which operates cyber charter schools in Pennsylvania, has spent $681,000 taxpayer dollars on lobbying PA legislators, and the CEO of this company, Mr. Ron Packard, received a compensation package in 2011 of nearly $5 million—all taxpayer money.

What can I do to ensure that taxpayer dollars will be spent educating children and that children who attend charter schools will receive a quality education?

Our state legislators make all decisions about charter school funding and educational accountability standards. Contact your state legislators and tell  them to vote for real charter school reform THIS YEAR. Pennsylvanians cannot afford to overpay charter schools for another year.


1 Comment

  1. Frank White says:

    Excellent policy recommendations. Why haven’t these absolutely common sense charter reforms and regulations been a legal requirement everywhere?

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