Sen.Teplitz Calls for Costing-out Study of ‘Flawed’ Charter School Funding Formula


Teplitz Calls for Costing-out Study of ‘Flawed’ Charter School Funding Formula

HARRISBURG, May 29, 2013 — As school districts continue to struggle with tighter budgets, state Sen. Rob Teplitz said a thorough examination of the charter school funding formula is needed to address spending inequities.

Teplitz has introduced a resolution directing the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to conduct a comprehensive statewide costing-out study of charter schools and cyber schools in Pennsylvania. The resolution has 19 co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle.

Pennsylvania’s charter school funding formula establishes a per-student tuition rate based on the cost to educate a student in his or her home school district, and not on the actual costs at the charter or cyber charter school.

The flawed formula creates spending inefficiencies that hurt taxpayers, said Teplitz, who is a member of the Senate Education Committee.

“Many school districts are still struggling to balance their budgets and are forced to raise local taxes, while some charter and cyber charter schools maintain surpluses. It makes no sense that two children from different school districts who attend the same charter school bring with them different levels of taxpayer-funded tuition,” said Teplitz (D-Dauphin/York). “Families deserve to access an education that best fits their child’s needs, and that includes the many fine charter schools in Pennsylvania, but we have to make sure that no child is short changed. In order to make sure that all of our public schools are properly funded and that taxpayer dollars are used in an efficient and accountable manner, a comprehensive study of the cost associated with charter and cyber charter schools should be conducted.”

The study would determine the basic actual cost per student in charter and cyber charter schools and would provide a statewide tuition rate for both charter and cyber charter schools to ensure equitable and accountable distribution of funding.

The costing-out study would be submitted to the governor and leaders in the Senate and House by Nov. 30.

As the former chief counsel and policy director at the Pennsylvania Department of the Auditor General, Teplitz worked on various reports that exposed the inequities and flaws in tuition rates that local school districts must pay to charter and cyber charter schools.

A June 2012 study showed that Pennsylvania has overpaid charter schools compared to the national average. Specifically, Pennsylvania charter schools spent an average of $13,411 per student — $3,000 more than the national average of about $10,000.

Pennsylvania cyber charter schools received about the same funding level as bricks-and-mortar charter schools, but they only spent an average of $10,145 per student, which is also $3,500 more than the national average of $6,500

“I support charter and cyber education as choices that families should be able to make. However, we must address the financial consequences of that choice,” Teplitz said. “Compared to national spending numbers, we could cut costs in half when it comes to educating cyber school students without jeopardizing their education. We need to make sure we are using funds in the most effective and efficient way possible and this study will help do that

“Pennsylvania could save hundreds of millions of dollars if we spent our money more wisely on funding charter and cyber charter schools. This resolution would take the first steps to determine a fair funding formula.”