State Charter Coalition Responds to State Reps. Emrick and Reese Op-Eds
February 26, 2014
House Bill 618, summarized in the opinion piece by Representatives Joe Emrick and Mike Reese that appeared in Feb 15 issue of the Express Times, is a thoughtful and comprehensive piece of charter reform legislation. The vast majority of the elements in the bill are concepts we have supported for years and continue to do so. But the proposed treatment of cyber school pension expenses runs counter to the logic, balance, and fairness evident in the rest of the bill.
Currently, cyber schools receive money from the home districts of their students, including money to cover pension expenses. Both district and cyber pension costs are matched by a 50 percent reimbursement from the state. This results in an overpayment to cybers which should be addressed. The problem with HB 618 is that it goes too far in rectifying this inequity by allowing the districts to pay nothing to the cybers for their legitimate and growing pension expenses. This significantly underfunds cyber pensions, places the financial viability of the smaller cybers at risk, and replaces a “cyber double dip” with a “district double dip”. This, on top of the fact that cybers are already educating children for 20 percent less than traditional schools, runs counter to the goal of good financial stewardship.
There are better solutions to the pension issue than the one offered in HB 618, unless the definition of “good financial stewardship” is compensating districts for expenses they do not have at the expense of draining cybers dry.
Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools