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WCASD School Board Urges Lawmakers to Reform Charter School Funding

The West Chester Area School District Board of Directors has approved a resolution urging state lawmakers to support legislation that would reform cyber charter school funding statewide, potentially saving the district 1.7 million dollars.

All nine members of the board voted in support of the resolution at the June 24 school board meeting.

At issue is the funding formula for charter schools, in particular, cyber charter schools, which was established by Pennsylvania lawmakers in 1997. Under the current formula, school districts must pay charter schools per-pupil tuition based on a district's expenditures and not the actual instructional costs of the students attending the charter school.  

Cyber charter schools began in 2002 under the guise of Charter School law.  A cyber charter school is an online school where children stay at home and receive their education via a computer.  There is no overhead costs to maintain a building, therefore their cost to educate students in cyber school is much lower than that of a charter school.  The law does not differentiate tuition rates between brick and mortar charter schools and cyber charter schools, therefore school districts pay the same rate for both.

During the 2018-19 school year, the West Chester Area School District paid $2,679,345 in cyber charter tuition for 135 non-special education students, and 33 special education students with a tuition rate of $12,620, and $29,565 per pupil respectively. According to the Chester County Intermediate Unit, the average tuition cost for a non-special education cyber school student is $5,400 and $6,500 for a special education cyber school student. Based on their rates, the West Chester Area School District and taxpayers would save an estimated $1,735,845.

The school board's resolution urges elected officials to support legislation that would change the funding formula so that the tuition school districts pay to cyber charter schools is based on the actual costs of educating cyber charter students. The resolution also urges lawmakers to support House Bill 526 and Senate Bill 34, which would require parents to enroll their children in a cyber charter school operated by their local school district if such an option is available.