Senate Bill 1085 may be found here: Bill Information
The cuts in funding for Cyber Charter Schools can be found on pages 67-68 – Section 20. The co-sponsors are found at the top of page 1.
Senate Bill 1085 attempts to provide some help to Charter Schools but cuts the funding for Charter Schools by 8-10% by  reducing the Pennsylvania State Employee Retirement System reimbursement to Charter Schools from the state by 3-5% and  cutting Cyber Charter Schools an additional 5%.
The first cut ( above) has been described as fixing a “double dip” – a payment from the school districts and an additional payment from the state for School Employee Retirement Plans. There are other inequities within the funding formula that harms PA Charter (and Cyber Charter) Schools, like transportation, federal funds, and building reimbursements. The only two changes proposed within this bill are two that harm Charter Schools.
Within the bill is a proposed “funding commission” that could provide an extensive analysis of the funding process for Charter and Cyber Charter schools. Any changes to the funding formula thereafter should wait for the funding commission’s report.
The second cut ( above) for PA Cyber Charter Schools of 5% is arbitrary and based solely on the political pressures coming from home school districts to deplete their Cyber Charter Schools. Because Cyber Charter Schools currently serve only 2% of the state’s 1.8 million students, the savings to the home school district will be .02% (two-tenths of one percent) of their school district budget. However, the proposed hit to Cyber Charter Schools’ funding will be 5%.
The motivation for this cut is not to provide much-needed money for the home district but is an attempt to further punish Cyber Charter Schools. Currently, Cyber Charters receive only 70% of the home districts’ cost for their student that chooses to attend a Cyber School instead. These two additional cuts would cause Cyber Charter Schools to be the least-funded schools in the state.
The reason behind these cuts is that Cyber Charter Schools can function on less money, therefore they do not need as much. If this were true, home school districts would have created dozens of Cyber Charter Schools enrolling tens of thousands of students more cheaply. Home school districts cannot do this. In fact, one such Cyber Charter School that was run by a Pennsylvania School District attempted such but had to close its doors in September 2013 after losing students over several previous years.
The other argument to cut funding for Charter Schools and cut additional funding for Cyber Charter Schools is that
- More than one top charter leader is under investigation for various crimes against the state.
- Four Cyber Charter Schools have given up their charter(s) and have closed.
- Various Charter-School-Management Companies provide leadership and services to Charter Schools and make a profit from their efforts.
There are currently more than 34,000 students enrolled in 15 Cyber Charter Schools. It is wrong to punish these students based on the potential misconduct of a few. That investigations are taking place and that 4 Cyber Charter Schools have shut down for various reasons over the last 12 years prove the system works. Charter Schools are designed to provide numerous opportunities to create new models. Those models that fail should be closed down. This is in direct contrast to the current system that continues to support failing schools and provide more resources to under-performing schools. In addition, various Charter-School-Management Companies have come and gone. Institutions that serve positive purpose and prove positive success should be encouraged to grow. Giving them a financial incentive to succeed is the engine that fuels an economy.
The reasons being used to reduce Charter and Cyber Charter schools of their resources are, in fact, the very reasons that these progressive and successful schools should be given more resources.
For these reasons, please contact your PA State Senator, State Representative, and Governor Wolf to let them know that cutting funding for Charter and Cyber Charter Schools is unfair and prejudiced.