Pittsburgh Tribune: Setting the Record Straight on Charter Schools in PA
February 01, 2012
The following is a published letter to the Pittsburgh Tribune from the PCPCS Executive Director, Bob Fayfich, on the common Misconceptions of PA Charter Schools:
Editor: The Jan. 28 editorial, “State needs sound course for charters,” is well-reasoned but includes two common misconceptions about charter schools.
First, charter schools are public schools. They are funded by tax dollars and are both authorized by and accountable to the respective school district or the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The article states that money is being “drained” from one to support the other when, in fact, they are all part of the same public education system. In New Orleans, and increasingly in other urban school systems throughout the nation, charter schools represent the model for the majority of schools in the public school system.
In Philadelphia, one in four students is now in some form of charter school. Under the Philadelphia Compact, the Philadelphia School District, the mayor’s office, the School Reform Commission, the Pennsylvania Department of Education, and the charter community are working cooperatively to get more students into high-performing public schools of all types. Charters are a different model, but they are public schools.
Second, districts do not “pay certified charter schools at a rate equal to the district’s cost-per-pupil.” The amount that goes to a charter for each child is determined by applying the Pennsylvania Department of Education Form 363. That form takes the budget of the district, divides by the number of students, and then allows the district to make 21 deductions. The money that eventually goes to the charter from the district varies from a high of 80 percent to a low of 52 percent of the average district cost per pupil. The statewide average is 70 percent, which means that charter schools, on average, are currently educating students for 30 percent less than the taxpayer is paying the district to do the job.
PENNSYLVANIA COALITION OF PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOLS