Charter and Cyber Charter Reforms Heads to Senate
9/26/2013
HARRISBURG – Almost $150 million over two years will be saved by Pennsylvania school districts if House Bill 618, which passed the House of Representatives today by a vote of 133-62, and heads to the Senate for consideration, House Majority leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny County) said today.

House Bill 618 amends the state Public School Code to extensively revise and add charter school provisions.

“This legislation brings fair and responsible changes to charter and cyber-charter school funding and strengthens provisions regulating these schools, while preserving parental options for our Commonwealth’s students,” Turzai said. “In general, Pennsylvania’s charter schools and cyber charter schools work well and benefit many Pennsylvania families, particularly those students in low-performing school districts.”

The Charter and Cyber Charter Funding Reform bill contains major reforms dealing with funding, ethics, accountability, governance, and academic quality.

Pennsylvania taxpayers will realize significant savings under House Bill 618, which erases the so-called “pension double-dip” and returns to school districts overpayment of cyber charter school pension costs allowed under the current funding formula. Individual school districts are currently required to reimburse 100 percent of the cyber charter school pension costs, on top of a 50 percent reimbursement by the Department of Education. Cyber charters will still receive, as all school districts, the 50 percent pension reimbursement.

These and other funding reforms and efficiencies are expected to save Pennsylvania school districts approximately $84 million over the next two years according to Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO).

Further, the bill the same limits on unassigned fund balances that school districts abide, and requires charter and cyber charter schools to return to paying school districts excess tuition under these new limits. Using 2011-12 data, PASBO says $65 million will be returned to the Commonwealth’s school districts, as a result of these changes.

The legislation would create a Charter School Funding Commission to look at issues related to charter and cyber charter schools, including the development of a fair funding formula based on actual costs of educating a child in cyber charter schools. The commission would make recommendations to the General Assembly and the governor by March 30, 2014.

House Bill 618 would require payment directly to charter and cyber charter schools from the Department of Education, with appropriate documentation of student enrollment and residency.. Charter and cyber charter schools will no longer have to worry about payment disputes with school districts.

The legislation would create an Academic Performance Matrix to assess academic quality for Pennsylvania’s charter and cyber charter schools. The matrix would measure and assess the academic performance of the schools; high performing schools would be granted 10-year renewal terms. The legislation also and require all initial and renewal charter and cyber charter school applicants to include a rigorous teacher evaluation system.

House Bill 618 has been endorsed by the Pennsylvania Associations of School Business Officials, School Administrators and Rural and Small Schools, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, the Pennsylvania League of Urban Schools, and the Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children.  

Representative Mike Turzai
Majority Leader
28th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Stephen Miskin
smiskin@pahousegop.com
RepTurzai.com / facebook.com/RepTurzai
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