Fleck: Auditor General Special Report Shows Pressing Need for Charter, Cyber School Funding Reform
6/21/2012
HARRISBURG – Rep. Mike Fleck (R-Huntingdon/Blair/Mifflin) said the need to enact his legislation that would change the funding formula for Pennsylvania’s charter and cyber charter schools was underscored by a special report released Wednesday by state Auditor General Jack Wagner.

“The auditor general’s office concluded that state taxpayers would save at least $365 million annually by adopting funding formulas for charter and cyber charter schools similar to those used in other states,” said Fleck. “My legislation does just that, while making these public, but privately run, schools more accountable and their operations more transparent. I was pleased to hear Auditor General Wagner reference my bill during his news conference and say that he supports its concept.”

To read the auditor general’s special report, visit: http://www.auditorgen.state.pa.us/Department/Press/CyberCharterSpecialReport201206.pdf

The auditor general’s study shows that taxpayers are overpaying charter and cyber charter schools because the funding formula is pegged to student educational costs in the sending school district rather than on the actual educational cost to the operators of these schools.

Pennsylvania charter schools spent an average of $13,411 per student, which was about equal to the funding they received and about $3,000 more than the national average. While cyber charter schools received about the same funding level as brick-and-mortar charter schools, they spent an average of $10,145 per student, reflecting their lower operating costs. That figure was $3,500 more than the national average.

The auditor general found that based on the five states with the largest student enrollment in charter and cyber charter schools, Pennsylvania’s average spending level of $12,657 per student was clearly the highest.

Fleck’s proposal, House Bill 2364, would change the current funding formula used to determine school district tuition payments for students who attend charter and cyber charter schools to: 

        • Remove the “double dip” for pension costs which are not now subtracted from 
          district expenditures, saving taxpayers an estimated half billion dollars within five 
          years. 
        • Eliminate non-instructional services from tuition payments, including athletic 
          funds, non-public school programs and services, and the tuition payments 
          themselves as they are unrelated to operational costs. 
        • Limit unassigned fund balances and make them consistent with traditional public 
          schools.

The bill would change the funding formula for special education costs as well. It would also establish a year-end audit process to ensure charter and cyber charter schools are being paid for the actual cost of educating students. In addition, the measure would prohibit the use of funding to pay for advertising to promote the enrollment in a charter or cyber charter school.

“The intention of my bill is not to close charter and cyber charter schools in Pennsylvania,” said Fleck. “The only goal is to correct some serious flaws in current law that will save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and prevent school districts from laying off teachers and cutting programs for lack of funding. The auditor general’s special report serves to bolster our argument that these changes need to happen now, at a time when every state dollar spent on education should be money well spent.”

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, there are currently 167 charter and cyber schools operating in the Commonwealth with a total enrollment of more than 105,000 students – 154 brick-and-mortar charter schools with 72,714 students and 13 cyber charter schools with 32,322 students.

For more information on Fleck and his legislative priorities, visit www.RepFleck.com or
www.Facebook.com/RepFleck.

State Representative Mike Fleck
81st District, Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Andy Briggs
abriggs@pahousegop.com
717.260.6474