Report: Pennsylvania’s charters are costly to traditional public schools

Pennsylvania’s growing number of charter and cyber-charter schools do not save school districts money and, in many cases, add to their expenses, says a new report from the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA).

“Charter schools do not charge a standard rate for their educational services,” says the report by PSBA’s Education Research and Policy Center. “In fact, the amount paid to charter schools varies greatly by school district, and is often completely unrelated to the actual operational costs incurred by charter schools.”

Tuition payments to Pennsylvania charter schools rose from $960 million in 2010-11 to more than $1.15 billion in 2011-12.

The tuition calculation for charter schools is much the same as for the per-student Actual Institutional Expense (AIE) of traditional schools; however, several cost elements excluded from the AIE —  for example, early intervention, vocational expenditures, and selected federal revenue — are included in the charter school tuition formula, thus driving up the cost of this subsidy, the report said.

“The problem is compounded by the fact that in most cases, less than 30 students from each district building attend charters, meaning districts are unable to reduce overhead costs, such as heating and electricity,” the report said. “Neither are school districts able to reduce the size of their faculty or staff.”

In addition, many students choosing to attend charter or cyber-charter schools were previously attending private schools or being home-schooled, meaning that these tuition payments are “an entirely new expense for school districts,” the report said.

PSBA’s report made several recommendations, among them requesting that the state set “reasonable limits” on the amount of unexpended tuition funds charters can receive from school districts and that these schools be required to return any unused balances to the district that sent them the money.



Lawrence Hardy|February 12th, 2014|Categories: Budgeting, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Privatization, School Vouchers, State School Boards Associations|Tags: , , |


  1. I don’t understand the justification for evaluating public and charter/electronic schools by two different standards and then presenting them to public scrutiny as though it was a level playing field. When charter/electronic schools claim they have a right to public funding, they need to get out there and campaign for public dollars just like the public school does. They need to tell the public what they cost and how they use (and misuse) public funds. Public schools have to stand on their record to obtain votes to pass their levies. Public schools have their overseeing boards elected to office. Charters/electronics do none of these things. They get free money, are subject only to the scrutiny of the legislature, and never have report cards published for the public to use to compare their effectiveness with other schools. That’s taxation without representation. Besides, public schools should be proud of providing consistant, quality education. Instead, public education is constantly improved by legislators, not educators, and it’s budget is decided by legislators and not the ones providing the education. Charter/electronic schools don’t have that kind of outside interference. Charter/electronic schools don’t have to prove they’re better. That’s just wrong on so many levels.

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