School District of Philadelphia introduces law to cut funding to Charter Schools
April 08, 2011
The following letter was sent yesterday to the Governor’s office in protest of an over-reaching change to state law to defund Charter Schools by the School District of Philadelphia.
Dear Governor Corbett,
The School District of Philadelphia (SDP) is calling for a quick and ill-conceived change
in state law that would cut charter school funding an additional thirteen percent, effectively
transferring $57 million from the charters in Philadelphia to the District as compensation for
children the District does not educate. This proposed change in funding would punish children
throughout Pennsylvania, who are already being educated with thirty percent fewer taxpayer
dollars. On a statewide basis, the impact of this change would be devastating, forcing the closure
of charters and stripping from many Pennsylvania parents and students the right to public school
The current formula for funding charter schools starts with the average cost to educate a
student in a given district and then permits the school district to deduct costs for transportation
(even if the district does not provide transportation to the charter school) and other expenses. The
balance, which on average statewide is about seventy percent of the starting average cost per
student, is passed on to the charter school, which also then accepts the responsibility for
educating that student. Charters also receive no money for construction and scores of other line
items that districts receive. The bottom line is that the SDP is now asking the legislature to
transfer an additional piece of taxpayer money from the entities that are educating the child to the
entity which is not.
How did it get this bad in Philadelphia? A large part of the problem is due to the SDP
decisions. Their use of one-time federal stimulus money and the charter reimbursements they
received from the state to perpetuate existing programs. Their announcement that there will be
no school closures next year, even though they have 70,000 empty seats in the district and have
known about declining enrollment and under utilization of buildings for at least three years is
stunning. In addition, a recent audit by Auditor General Jack Wagner revealed that, for the last
10 years, SDP has had absolutely no way to verify that they were submitting accurate child
accounting numbers to the Commonwealth.
Charter schools are currently educating more than 70,000 children in Pennsylvania with
an additional 24,000 children on waiting lists. If they were a single district, charters would be the
second largest school district in the Commonwealth, educating children for thirty percent less.
As a Commonwealth, we should be looking for ways to educate our children better for less, not
rewarding or subsidizing institutions for fiscal inefficiency.
There is no question that many public schools in the state are facing significant financial
challenges. But the first response to such a challenge should be introspective rather than
legislative. What can we do to be more effective and efficient at lower costs? What are the
programs, positions, and policies that we have in place that don’t really contribute to a quality
education for our children? What can we do to better serve our children? These are difficult
questions with even more difficult solutions, but they must be asked and answered.
We ask that the General Assembly and the Governor reject the School District of
Philadelphia’s request to change current law that would give the school district more taxpayer
dollars for not educating children, devastate the charter school option for parents and children
who need it most, remove the burden for seeking more efficient methods for delivering effective
education from the school district, and shift the costs of inefficiency to the shoulders of
In these difficult economic times, it’s important to keep in mind that what we’re doing is
all about the kids and their future. The Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools is
dedicated to choice, quality, and accountability. This proposal from the School District of
Philadelphia is the polar opposite of everything we stand for in public education.
Interim Executive Director
Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools