Proposed Legislation Unfairly Discriminates Against Special Education Students
April 22, 2014
HB 2138 and SB 1316 are currently being considered by the Pa. Legislature, and in their present form, will cause inequities for special education and will cause charter schools to close.
The implementation SB 1316, and HB 2138, identical pieces of legislation impacting the formula for special education funding, will cause major inequities for some special education students, undermine the ability of charter schools to provide Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) to special education students, and potentially cause some charter schools to close, according to the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools (PCPCS).
“The legislation, which includes a three-tiered system based on the needs of students and multipliers for each tier, is very well conceived in structure, but falls short of common equity in implementation,” said PCPCS Executive Director Bob Fayfich.
Under the proposed legislation, funding, only for charters, is based on the flawed basic education formula. While the implementation for traditional schools is to apply only to the new $20 million special education funding proposed in Governor Tom Corbett’s budget, for charters, it is applied to the total $1 billion spent in Pennsylvania on special education.
“No matter how brilliant a building design is, it will collapse if built on a foundation of sand,” said Fayfich.
The effect of these two implementation actions are disastrous. “The same child, with exactly the same challenges, would receive 30–60 percent less state financial support if he or she were in a charter public school than if the family had chosen to remain in the traditional public school,” said Fayfich. “It’s an institutionalized inequity based solely on the type of public school they choose to attend.”
The decreased funding for charters may also prevent some charter schools from meeting mandated state and federal FAPE requirements, and may cause the school to close –based, not on quality, but on insufficient funding.
The PCPCS met with key members of the General Assembly, and has made it clear that if legislators want to cripple the charter school option for parents, this proposed implementation is a major step in that direction.
“Legislation that moves too fast often results in unintended consequences,” Fayfich said. “We believe that we can offer implementation solutions that will achieve the original intent of the legislation, without the inequities and devastating consequences, before the end of this legislative session.”
“Fundamentally this is not about traditional and charter schools, this is about equitable treatment of children with special needs, regardless of the type of public school they have chosen to attend,” said Fayfich.