Governor Wolf Proposes Charter School Reform

Governor Wolf announced administration efforts to engage in comprehensive charter school reform that would encompass legislative and regulatory changes to charter school law and policy. Read more about Governor Wolf's charter school reform proposal. 
The PA Association of School Business Officials (PASBO) applauds Governor Wolf for today's announcement prioritizing the need for charter school reform. While we appreciate the comprehensive charter school reform he has outlined, we are most encouraged by his recognition of the critical need for charter school funding reform, and we look forward to working with the governor and the General Assembly to include meaningful charter school funding reform in future modifications to the charter school law.
Charter school tuition is one of the largest areas of mandated cost growth for school districts. During the 2017-18 school year, school districts paid $1.8 billion to charter schools, an increase of 10%—or $170 million—from the prior year. As a result, $0.37 of every new dollar raised in property taxes in 2017-18 went directly to charter schools.
The amount of tuition a school district must pay a charter or cyber charter school each year is dependent on a calculation defined in the charter school law. Based on this law, each school district must pay a unique charter school tuition rate for each regular and special education student enrolled in a charter school.
Last year, based on this calculation, regular education charter school tuition across school districts ranged from $7,800 to $21,000 per student, and special education tuition ranged from $16,600 to $54,000 per student. None of these rates corresponds to a charter school's actual costs to educate a student.
Based on the charter school tuition calculation, the amount of charter school tuition a school district pays—and how quickly the tuition increases from year to year—is largely dependent on factors outside of a school district's control, and often, the charter tuition calculation drives out annual increases in the charter school tuition rate that are significantly greater than the Act 1 index limitations on property tax increases with which school districts must comply.
The result of this mandated cost is fiscal stress for school districts and property tax increases for taxpayers, and continuation of the status quo only ensures that property taxes will increase and school districts will repeatedly be faced with budgetary challenges.
Governor Wolf's announcement today signifies his commitment to pursuing necessary changes to the charter school funding law to ensure fairness and predictability for school districts, taxpayers and charter schools. There is a better way to fund charter schools, and PASBO looks forward to working with Governor Wolf and the General Assembly to both develop and implement effective policy to provide school districts and taxpayers with needed relief from rising charter school tuition costs and to implement other needed reform to current charter school law and policy.