Saturday, February 18, 2017

Local school district payments to charter schools shot up 70 percent in 6 years.

The Sunday Dispatch | Local school district payments to charter schools shot up 70 percent in 6 years.:

Local school district payments to charter schools shot up 70 percent in 6 years.


Charter schools, particularly online “cyber charters” have increasingly been blamed for school district financial woes, with administrators contending charters siphon much-needed money from district coffers.



An advocacy group recently compiled state data for all 500 districts in the state showing just how much money is involved, providing payments to charters during a six-year span.
The local hit is steep: Luzerne County’s 11 school districts paid $16.1 million for charter school tuition in 2014-15. It’s also escalating rapidly. The data shows the payments by all 11 districts increased 70 percent since 2009-10.
Charter schools are public schools free of many state regulations. The initial idea was to let a school board grant a charter to a new school that could try different ideas in the classroom, with districts and charters collaborating to improve education for all students.
Charters are financed by a per-student tuition paid from the district where the student ordinarily would attend school. The theory is simple: The money the district would have spent on a student goes with the student to the charter school.
But the relationship became adversarial quickly. Districts often rejected requests for charters, forcing those who hoped to establish one to appeal to the state. That is how Luzerne County’s lone brick-and-mortar charter school — Bear Creek Community Charter — came to be after repeated rejections by the Wilkes-Barre Area School Board.
But charters expanded without physical buildings, thanks to cyber charters, where students do the bulk of school work online. As cyber charter enrollment increased, so did complaints from local school boards. It has become an almost annual lament: budgets are tight because the district loses money by forking it over to charters.
Northwest Area School District officials cited money lost to charters as a major drain when the school board started working in January on the 2017-18 budget. School districts point out that losing students to charter schools rarely translates into savings equal to the per-pupil payment to those charters.
Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale has repeatedly questioned charter payments, contending charter schools get far more than they spend per student. Charter proponents deny accusations by critics.
So how much have local districts been paying to charter schools? A group called Education Voters of PA compiled state data into an online spreadsheet, letting anyone with Internet access look up the district of their choice.
The data shows that, in 2009-10, Luzerne County districts collectively shelled out $9.5 million in charter tuition, $7.63 million for regular education students and $1.85 million for special education students. The amount rose The Sunday Dispatch | Local school district payments to charter schools shot up 70 percent in 6 years.



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