A plan to address charter school funding inequalities could be ready to go before the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Education Committee by the end of session in November, according to state Rep. Tina Pickett (R-110), although she admitted that the prediction was “pretty aggressive.”
Work to update the commonwealth’s 23-year-old charter school law is being spearheaded by state Rep. Curtis Sonney (R-4), the House Education Committee chairman, who has already held hearings on the issue. During her tele-town hall meeting Tuesday, Pickett said Sonney is looking to bring all stakeholders to the table — including representatives from public schools, cyber charter schools, and parents — to work out the best solution.
“He will stay on it and I think he will come up with something that you will find is a reasonable change, but leaves things in place for families who want to use these schools,” said Pickett, adding that she and other lawmakers have been in constant communication with Sonney about the issue due to the large volume of questions they receive from their constituents.
She provided the update following a town hall question from Sullivan County School Board member Anthony Durland, who wondered what a funding formula change would mean for the children who utilize cyber schools.
As the Pennsylvania School Boards Association explains it in a resolution that has been gaining support from different school districts, payment calculations are being used based on a school district’s expenses instead of the actual cost to educate a child, which result in more money being sent to charter schools than needed. The PSBA noted that tuition for regular education students can vary by around $13,000 and by $39,000 for special education students — a concern that was reiterated by Durland during their discussion.
Durland also wanted to make sure the fact that cyber school children can play for their local sports teams was also part of the conversation. Pickett said it, along with many other issues, was.
“Certainly, the choice schools have made a place for themselves in the marketplace. There are families that use them for very good reasons, things that they want to continue to do, and they are satisfied,” said Pickett. “ … He’s (Sonney) trying to bring everyone together and say what can we do so we can keep this being as good as this needs to be and we want it to be, but at the same time the funding is fair.”