Pa. legislators reckon with school funding disparities
March 14, 2013By MAry Wilson, @marywilson
As Pennsylvania lawmakers consider proposed changes to funding cyber charter schools, larger problems with how public education is funded are drawing their attention.
Pennsylvania school districts pay for every charter and cyber charter school student who would otherwise go to their schools.
But student costs vary from district to district because of the way state funding is allocated.
So what charter schools receive is based on each district -- not on the charter's per-student costs.
Joanne Jones Barnett, CEO of the Pennsylvania Virtual Charter School, is asking state House lawmakers to consider a comprehensive overhaul to correct the district-to-district inequities.
"First of all, we need to look at what is broken," Barnett said. "That is the funding model for all education in the commonwealth."
The changes before lawmakers would require school districts to pay less money to cyber charter schools.
That's giving some lawmakers pause.
State Rep. Ryan Aument, R-Lancaster, says he’s hesitant to vote for those changes and not alter the way all public education is funded.
"My concern with a piecemeal approach is that we perhaps are taking away legitimate options for students," Aument said Thursday."I am interested in the conversation about children in two different school districts receiving different allocations of funds as it flows from the state. Shouldn’t we really start there?"
However, groups representing school districts say putting such measures off until a grand bargain is struck would be a mistake.
"If we've got the obvious things that we can do, the improvements that we can make immediately, we should do that because the grand bargain could be very elusive when it comes to that," says Stuart Knade, head of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.