To the editor:
As school districts struggle to balance budgets in this time of reduced state support for public education, we are writing in support of a bill: HB 2364. This bill would revise the existing flawed funding formula for charter and cyber charter schools. As it currently stands, local taxpayers are overpaying for services provided by these schools and this bill would adjust the formula in several important areas.
A critical change is that HB 2364 does away with the pension "double dip." Under the current charter school funding formula, a school district's retirement costs are figured into the payments it makes to a charter or cyber charter school. The catch is that these schools also receive reimbursement from the state for a minimum of 50 percent of its retirement costs, giving charter schools a "double dip" of pension reimbursement - once from the Commonwealth and once from school district taxpayers. Correcting this anomaly would save taxpayers half a billion dollars within five years.
A second needed change is special education costs. Local district taxpayers are required to pay the costs of special education students who are enrolled in charter and cyber charter schools. Under the formula in current law, this cost is more than double the amount districts pay for their own special education students. The district average is more than $18,000 per student per year. HB 2364 would cap the special education amount at the actual cost of service provided if less than the formula reimbursement.
The state's current charter school funding formula is costing taxpayers hundreds of millions in additional tax dollars each year. Almost all funding for charter and cyber charter schools is currently provided by local school districts, placing a significant financial burden on districts' resources. The revision of the funding formula is overdue, and the changes under HB 2364 are needed now.
Dr. Brett Gilliland
Mount Union Area
Dwayne D. Northcraft
Central Fulton School District
Huntingdon Area School District
Mark D. Loucks
Forbes Road School District
James A. Estep
Mifflin County School District
David E. Christopher
Juniata Valley School District
Southern Fulton School District
Richard J. Musselman
Juniata County School District
Dr. Tod Kline
Southern Huntingdon County School District