PCPCS News

PCPCS Statement on Special Education Funding

HARRISBURG (June 30, 2020) – The following is a statement from the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools (PCPCS) on a report issued by an anti-charter group calling for funding cuts to special education students in public charter schools.

“Thousands of families of special education students have chosen to leave their district schools and enroll in a public charter school. Anti-charter groups are calling for spending cuts as a way to punish the families who leave their district school. The spending cuts are designed to put charter schools out-of-business and eliminate competition for district schools.

“For some time, anti-charter groups have called for a funding system that would treat charter school students as second-class citizens. It would underfund special education students and prevent charter schools from supplying the educational, emotional and physical services they need. These cuts would not only be discriminatory, but heartless.

“At a recent House Appropriations Committee hearing, Education Secretary Pedro Rivera was asked by lawmakers if his agency has any data to substantiate anti-charter groups’ claims that charter schools are acting improperly when it comes to identifying students in need of special education. Secretary Rivera said he did not.

“The Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools for years has been calling on the governor and state lawmakers to pass meaningful, bipartisan charter reforms. However, many of our colleagues in the traditional education system want to bankrupt charter schools and force families back into the schools they chose to leave.”

Charter schools are funded on a per-pupil basis that considers each school district’s spending. On average, school districts keep approximately 25 percent of charter school funding for “stranded costs.” The Charter School Law requires that students are funded at two rates: a special education rate and a non-special education rate.

Here is a graphic of special education funding in Pennsylvania.

In 2017-2018, the Souderton Charter School Collaborative (SCSC) was funded $568,072 for special education programs and $383,522 for non-special regular education programs. SCSC spent $764,132 on special education services, which is $196,060 more than what the school received. The school spent $383,522 for the non-special education services, as it was intended.

If enacted, the funding cuts being proposed by anti-charter groups would result in Philadelphia public charter students with special education needs receiving 50% less funding than their peers who attend a district school and receive special education services. This will force students with special education needs back into failing districts because charter schools will be unable to afford to meet their needs…essentially eliminating school choice for students with special education needs.

There are more than 143,000 students attending public charter schools in Pennsylvania. There are at least 40,000 more on waiting lists to enroll. PCPCS want to collaborate with district officials and lawmakers to enact reform that is fair to ALL public school students.

Media Contact: Jess Hickernell, j.hickernell@pacharters.org