Special Education Funding Commission Recommendations
Changing the charter school special education tuition calculation to generally implement the 2013 recommendations of the Special Education Funding Commission regarding the special education charter school tuition calculation would be positive. The Commission recommended applying the student weights and associated cost categories of special education services that are used in the school district special education funding formula to the special education charter school tuition calculation.
The recommendations of the Commission were to align special education charter school tuition more closely with actual charter school special education costs on a per student basis. Using the three cost categories of special education services that apply to school districts and are captured via Act 16 reporting (which is completed each year by school districts and charter schools), the Commission’s recommendation was to apply the same weights to the regular education charter school tuition rate based on the cost category of each special education charter school student.
- Category 1 ($25,884 or less/student): Multiply the regular education charter school tuition rate by 1.51
- Category 2 ($25,885-$51,769/student): Multiply the regular education charter school tuition rate by 3.77
- Category 3 (above $51,769/student): Multiply the regular education charter school tuition rate by 7.46
For example, if a school district’s regular charter school tuition rate was $10,000 and the special education charter school tuition rate was $20,000 under the current calculation, the amendment would revise the special education charter school tuition rates as follows:
- Category 1: $15,100 ($10,000 * 1.51)—a savings of $4,900 per Category 1 SE CS student
- Category 2: $37,700 ($10,000 * 3.77)—an increase of $17,700 per Category 2 SE CS student
- Category 3: $74,600 ($10,000 * 7.46)—an increase of $54,000 per Category 3 SE CS student
The vast majority of Pennsylvania’s special education students (in SDs and CSs) are in Category 1 (90.6% based on 17-18 Act 16 data); 6.6% of special education students are in Category 2, and 2.7% of special education students are in Category 3.
It would be possible to phase this new calculation in over a period of seven years, providing both charter schools and school districts time to adjust.
In addition to completing the Act 16 report, the change would require charter schools to document the costs of providing special education programs to eligible students and to provide that documentation to the school district and to PDE. Currently, for the charter tuition paid by local district taxes there is no information at either the state or district level on how charter special education is actually being spent.