Monday, April 14, 2014

PA Public Schools Facing Gaps Left by Loss of Charter School Reimbursement

Tom Joseph, Public News Service-PA

 HARRISBURG, Pa. - Educators say the loss of state funding for helping communities in Pennsylvania accommodate the financial effect of charter schools is translating to larger class sizes, and less money for staff, programs and textbooks. 

According to Susan Gobreski, executive director of the group Education Voters of Pennsylvania, the situation highlights a fundamental problem with the state's education funding formula.

"One of the things that we believe is that the state should be looking at restoring some of the cuts that have been made, so that districts are able to provide the services that they were able to provide, until we get a good funding formula put into place," she said.

Gobreski said the charter school reimbursement could act as a stopgap, in terms of giving school districts more resources to work with.

"It's not the districts' fault, it's not the charter schools' fault: it's a flaw of the funding formula," she said.

Gobreski said the charter school reimbursement line is a reasonable and fair way to distribute money to provide some immediate relief to districts that have been hit extraordinarily hard by state cuts and until a funding formula is adopted, the line item should be restored.

A review of state allocation changes shows that many districts across the state lost more than $1 million due to the cuts in compensation for charter school expenses. In the 2010-2011 school year, the York City School District, for example, received $4.5 million from the state for its students who attended charter schools. Erie got $2.5 million and Allentown, $2.1 million. School districts in Coatesville, Bethlehem, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have seen their charter school reimbursements cut completely.

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