The Bethel Park School Board recently passed a resolution asking the Pennsylvania Legislature to reform charter school funding. We agree, but not with Bethel Park's proposed solution.
School districts pass through taxpayer money to charter schools to educate children from their districts whose parents choose to send their child to a charter school. Districts retain about 30 percent of that taxpayer money while passing the responsibility for educating the child to the charters. Part of that money passed through is to pay pension costs for the charter school teachers who are educating that district's children. The legislation the district seeks would allow the district to retain 100 percent of the money designated for charter school employee pension expenses, although the district has no pension responsibility for those people, while underfunding charters for legitimate pension expenses. It creates a double dip for the districts -- retaining taxpayer money for expenses they do not have.
The district's position is more about money than what is best for students.
Parents enroll their children in charter schools because they do not believe the district is meeting the needs of their children. Rather than change to address the needs of those parents, many districts choose to defend the status quo. We suggest an alternative course of action: if any school district wants to kill charter schools, it needs to do only two things -- listen and change. Listen to the parents to understand why they are choosing charter schools, and then change to meet those needs.
Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools
West Chester, Pa.