PCPCS Statement on State Rep. Mike Fleck’s House Bill 2364
June 04, 2012
The Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools is profoundly disappointed that State Rep. Mike Fleck served as a mouthpiece for special interests seeking to destroy charter schools and eliminate parental choice.
Rep. Fleck’s legislation is disingenuous and shows incredible disrespect for the intelligence of legislators and Pennsylvania taxpayers. It talks about reform but protects the status quo. It claims that it protects taxpayers but intentionally ignores the fact that charter schools are already effectively educating children for 20 to 48 percent less than the taxpayer is paying to the district. It speaks about equitable funding but suggests a solution that excluded input from charter schools. It aims at charter school funding reform but misses the mark by avoiding a holistic approach to solving inequities in charter school funding and instead taking a one-sided, piecemeal stab at fixing a larger problem. This predictable reaction from Fleck and his teachers’ union and educational establishment allies is rooted in fear.
What is the motivation for their fear since charter schools account for only 4 percent of school districts’ spending? They fear the ability of parents to choose for their children the public school they deem best. They fear asking themselves, “why are parents choosing other school options?” They fear the ultimate accountability measure: parents voting with their feet by choosing a charter school in place of a district school. This is why they want to end public school choice options. School boards want to shift the consequences of decades of poor financial decisions from their shoulders to those of charter school parents and students. HB 2364 clearly seeks to deny public school choice, and treats children as revenue sources and scapegoats for the shortcomings of traditional public schools.
SPECIFIC PROBLEMS WITH HB 2364
In a broad interpretation, House Bill 2364 could essentially end all funding of charter schools in Pennsylvania, completely eliminating school choice, as it gives school districts the right to deny funding if they conclude that they offer educational services that can meet the specific needs of regular and special education students. This leaves school choice up to the districts rather than families, which essentially voids existing Charter School Law. Certain provisions outlined in this bill also run counter to federal law.
HB 2364 Eliminates School Choice for the Following Groups:
- Parents who wish to send their children to any charter school who reside in districts where there is already a district-run cyber program in place.
- Parents of special education students who are given an Individual Education Program (IEP) after enrollment in the charter school.
- Parents of special education students who reside in districts where special education charter costs exceed Rep. Fleck’s poorly-defined cap reimbursement levels.
- HB 2364 will put good quality charter schools out of business, eliminating the opportunity for that option for thousands of parents and children.
HB 2364 Proposes Inequitable and Punitive Funding Reductions to Charter Schools
Charter schools already educate children with far fewer taxpayer dollars than traditional public schools. Districts retain between 20 to 48 percent of every tax dollar for every student who chooses a charter school while passing the responsibility for educating that child on to the charter school.
The funding inequities identified in HB 2364 are incomplete. It intentionally ignores inequities charter schools suffer related to access to state and federal grants, facilities reimbursement, construction costs, transportation costs, and district manipulation of the PDE Form 363.
HB 2364 Places Zero Focus on Effective Education, Accountability, or Taxpayer Relief
Everything related to accountability, compliance, Sunshine Laws, and ethics is already in existing laws that charter schools have been accountable to for years.
There was not one mention in Fleck’s press conference of how this legislation is better for children.
Facts About Pennsylvania Charter Schools
Parents are demanding choice in public education. The total enrollment in Pennsylvania charter schools is 105,036, and low-income families make up the bulk of charter school enrollments at 62 percent while 39 percent of low-income families make up the enrollment at traditional public schools. Right now, 40,000 students are on waiting lists for charter schools across the Commonwealth, desperately hoping to get out of failing traditional schools and into high quality charter schools.