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05/21/2024 07:44 AM
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/Legis/CSM/showMemoPublic.cfm?chamber=H&SPick=20230&cosponId=41018
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House of Representatives
Session of 2023 - 2024 Regular Session

MEMORANDUM

Posted: June 14, 2023 09:55 AM
From: Representative Joe Ciresi
To: All House members
Subject: Modernizing our cyber charter school law to protect kids and taxpayers
 
Cyber charter schools have materially lower costs than either traditional public schools or brick and mortar charter schools.  Despite this different cost structure, they are paid the same as brick-and-mortar charter schools.
 
Pennsylvania’s antiquated charter school law is out of date and, as we’ve heard from almost every one of our elected school boards, is desperately in need of reform. I am proposing legislation that is grounded in common sense principles and fairness, ensuring cyber charter schools follow the same rules as traditional public schools.
 
This means good-governance rules with ethical safeguards and transparency in the spending of public funds, but also reforming how we fund cyber charter education. In 2015 we took a significant step by creating an education funding formula based on actual student enrollment and cost factors. While we did this to address an outdated, flawed, and inequitable system of funding school districts, we didn’t fix those same issues with cyber charter schools.
 
This legislation addresses that by setting a single statewide tuition rate for non-special education students at cyber schools based on the actual cost of cyber education, and by applying the existing three-tier special education funding formula currently used for school districts to cyber charter schools.
 
We can reform our cyber charter school law to make our system better, modernizing the law to protect taxpayers, ensure good governance, and preserve school choice. And, most importantly, make sure every student can learn in an environment where they will have the opportunity to succeed.
 
Fiscal Responsibility & Funding Reform
  • A standard statewide cyber charter tuition rate set annually by the Department of Education, which can focus on the costs of educating a child and end the wide disparity in rates affecting tuition even for students attending the same cyber charter school.
  • Implementing the same tiered Special Education Fair Funding Formula used by public schools for cyber charter school special education funding, directing dollars based upon the needs and cost of each student so that every student gets the support they deserve.
  • Transparency and reasonable restrictions for advertising expenses, event sponsorships, and other expenses not related to providing an education for students.
  • Caps on unassigned fund balances, like school districts have, to make sure the money cyber charter schools receive goes to educate our children.
 
Pupil Concerns

  • Independent evaluation of student needs for special education services by intermediate units to ensure that students get the support they need.
  • Regular wellness checks for each student to ensure their wellbeing and to verify their participation.
 
Corporate Governance/Ethics

  • Requiring cyber charter school meetings to follow the Sunshine Act.
  • Requiring cyber charter school trustees and administrators to live by the same financial and ethical reporting standards public school board members and school district officials live up to.
  • Improved cyber charter school governance through conflict of interest provisions for boards of trustees, annual audit requirements, and expanded public reporting requirements.
  • Clear and standard processes for applications to create, amend, or renew a charter for a cyber charter school.
 
It’s a big job, but our kids, their parents, and our taxpayers are counting on us. We can modernize how we fund cyber charter education just as we reformed the flawed method of how we used to fund our school districts. Funding education based on needs and costs is basic fiscal responsibility, right for our students, and simple common sense.
 
Now is the time for change! Let’s get to work on passing a new, modern cyber charter school law – one in which cyber charter schools are partners with our traditional public schools, and not competitors for tax dollars.
 
Please join me in co-sponsoring this much needed legislation.
 



Introduced as HB1422