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North Hills School Board Endorses Charter School Reform Bill

Proponents say the measure would level the playing field for charter school funding.

The North Hills School board unanimously passed a resolution Monday in support of The Charter and Cyber Charter School Reform Bill, which would change the funding formula for charter, and cyber schools. 

“This bill eliminates the funding of advertising by charter schools. It provides for more equitable cost control particularly of the cyber schools of what their actual costs incurred as opposed to what we are giving them,” said board finance vice chairman Lou Nudi. 

Superintendent Dr. Patrick Mannarino told the board the district spends $3,000 for every student it educates via the district’s cyber school but must pay $10,000 for every student that attends a cyber charter school. 

“They’re building this big mausoleums to cyber education, they’re in the real estate business, it’s one of the best examples of crony capitalism that you can find,” said Nudi. 

According to state law, local school districts must pay for students who choose to attend charter or cyber charter schools, which are funded by local school district tax dollars. 

Both the Pennsylvania School Boards Association and the Pennsylvania State Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, support the measure, sponsored by a Republican lawmaker from Central Pennsylvania, Mike Fleck. 

Currently, when school districts figure out how much they must pay for charters for each student – athletics, charter payments, and pension costs for teachers – are part of the equation, even though charter schools don't offer interscholastic athletics, don’t contribute to the cost of competing charger schools, and get their own state reimbursement for teacher retirement costs.

In addition to making the funding calculation more accurate, Fleck’s bill would also require charter schools to undergo strick audits and limit the size of their fund balances to 8-12 percent, depending on their size. 

In a statement on its web site, the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools said Rep. Fleck’s legislation essentially eliminates school choice for the following groups: 

  • Parents who wish to send their children to any charter school who reside in districts where there is already a district-run cyber program in place.
  • Parents of special education students who are given an Individual Education Program (IEP) after enrollment in the charter school.
  • Parents of special education students who reside in districts where special education charter costs exceed Rep. Fleck’s poorly-defined cap reimbursement levels.
  • HB 2364 will put good quality charter schools out of business, eliminating the opportunity for that option for thousands of parents and children.

The bill is now awaiting consideration by the House Education Committee.

What do you think of House Bill 2364? Tell us in comments below and vote in our poll. 

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T Miller June 20, 2012 at 12:33 PM
I always hear how school boards are crying because cyber schools take their tax dollars and force them to spend tax dollars educating students outside of their brick and mortar buildings. Are they forgettng that the tax dollars ARENT THEIRS TO HOARD but for the education of the students? My kids have NOT attended public schools for decades and I pay MEGA taxes...in both Hampton and Ross because we reside in one township and operate a business in another. Can I deduct my kids' school expenses from my tax dollars? NO. Can I expect Hampton Township to reimburse me the tax dollars that I spend myself for my kids curriculum, computers, learning aids, and other expenses? NO. So dont tell me whats 'fair' and how Cyber schools are the devil! If a parent wants to use THEIR tax dollars to optimize their childs learning choices and play an important role in their upbringing....I say BRING IT ON! Kids dont HAVE to learn in a pile of their peers....and there ARE learning choices. Its supposed to be about educating the kids and whats best for them. Quit greedily squeezing the tax dollars that dont rightfully belong to the schools where the kids ARENT in attendance! If I chose to use a cyber school for education....I would expect the funds allocated to the public school that I pay taxes to...to care enough about my students to forward their funds to the cyber school who is supplying the equipment, materials and paying instructors to teach my child. Its called FREEDOM and CHOICE.
Stephanie Davis June 20, 2012 at 12:57 PM
Agree that there are both good cyber/charter schools and poor ones (like anything else). I'm not sure someone on North Hills School Board (Nudi) has the objectivity to decide which schools in competition with n.h. should survive. I have rarely supported decisions by this (n.h.) school board as they do not seem to be student/parent friendly (e.g., no installation of air conditioning at the jr. high, class size increases, etc.). Yes, public schools are losing money to alternative schools for a reason. There is no one size fits all school and I agree that there need to be choices for parents and students. In terms of tax dollars... why support a school that does not have your child's best interests at heart?? Competition and choice will make administrators more accountable for their decisions (as in any business). Maybe it will make n.h. administrators more receptive to parent and student input.
Kevin Y. June 20, 2012 at 03:07 PM
Anyone concerned about their tax bill should support this reform. Notice the huge disparity in cost to the school district between educating kids at North Hills vs the cyber charter schools. $3,000 per student at North Hills vs. $10,000 at the cyber charter schools. That's $7,000 extra per student. This reform doesn't eliminate choice, it removes the financial windfall from cyber charter schools...
Stephanie Davis June 20, 2012 at 03:17 PM
This may be money well spent, especially if students get a better education. I don't necessarily want a cut rate education for my kids, rather I want to be comfortable knowing I have a choice in the education of my kids. Not feeling the love from n.h. administration.
Matthew Cook June 20, 2012 at 06:53 PM
These numbers are either suspect, or there is reasoning behind them that the Superintendent has chosen not to mention. Both my kids attended a charter school, in a separate building with dedicated teachers and administrators, so yes, charter schools do cost money. My guess here is that even though it is a 'cyber' school, there is still a pool of professionals, equipment, software, etc. dedicated to the charter curriculum that must be paid for. Windfall? I doubt it.
Matthew Cook June 20, 2012 at 07:01 PM
The flow of dollars seems convoluted. If the school district is 'paying' charter schools, that must mean they collected the tax money in the first place? Shouldn't the tax revenue flow to some type of treasury official, to be disbursed according to a budget? If the district didn't collect the tax money initially, then someone else did. That someone should be distributing the funds, and there would be no need for districts to 'pay' for charter and cyber schools.
kfs July 13, 2012 at 05:56 PM
Interesting story that has gotten little attention due to the Penn State report. But as someone who support cyber school funding reform, I am intrigued to hear what they are looking for. Especially since the founder resigned to explore other things in May. FBI, IRS search offices of Pennsylvania cyber school http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/news/education/fbi-irs-search-offices-of-cyberschool-in-midland-cpa-firm-644490/

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