(June 18) City charters get $100M more for special ed than they spend; debate rages in Harrisburg

By Dale Mezzacappa on Jun 5, 2014 02:12 PM

Philadelphia charter schools received more than $175 million last year to educate special education students, but spent only about $77 million for that purpose, according to a Notebook analysis of state documents.

That is a nearly $100 million gap at a time when city education leaders are considering raising some class sizes to 41 students and laying off 800 more teachers in District-run schools due to severe funding shortfalls. Payments to charters, which are fixed under law, make up nearly a third of its $2.4 billion budget.

The issue goes beyond Philadelphia. Statewide, charters, including cybers, collect about $350 million for special education students, but spend just $156 million on them, according to calculations from the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO). The Notebook used the PASBO analysis of state data to calculate the numbers for Philadelphia, which has half the state’s 170 charter schools.

Although most parties agree that this situation is the result of a faulty state charter funding system, there is fierce disagreement over how to fix it. While legislators and the Corbett administration finalize a 2014-15 budget, school districts and charter school proponents are engaged in virtual war as they all scramble for their piece of what most agree is an insufficient pot of money.

“The charters are benefiting from an unfair system, although they didn’t create the system,” said Susan Gobreski of Education Voters PA. “But the basic issue is inadequate resources. People are trying to hold on to anything they’ve got, and they choose not to be concerned about what happens to others.”

Full story: City charters get $100M more for special ed than they spend; debate rages in Harrisburg By Dale Mezzacappa, The Philadelphia Public School Notebook, 6/5/14

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