More Updates on SASD's Budget Related to Charter Schools

May 24, 2018

We continue to make progress developing the 2018-2019 budget, but challenges still remain. Over the past month, taxpayers have asked the School Board and Administration questions regarding charter school funding. One of the primary misconceptions amongst members of the public is that charter schools save taxpayers money. In fact, it is just the opposite:

  • The Souderton Area School District taxpayers fund more than $4 million to both brick-and-mortar and cyber charter schools in the form of tuition payments.
  • Because we are a large district, if the charter schools were to close and the students would return to our district schools we would not need to hire any additional staff, thus saving taxpayers $4 million. 
  • In addition, many cyber charter schools are using taxpayers’ dollars to run TV and radio commercials.

In SASD, we are proud of our education programs for students with special needs, and are also receiving questions about the disparity in special education funding between traditional public schools and charter schools. Here are the facts:

  • SASD educates its special education population of approximately 1,160 students for $18,567 per pupil vs. the $31,915 per pupil guaranteed in tuition to charter schools (regardless of actual costs to educate).
  • SASD only receives about $2,800 in state funding for each special education student. There is a stark disparity between that funding and what the legislature requires us to pay charter schools for children with special needs.
  • The funding from the state to school districts has not kept pace with increases in the charter school tuition rate, increasing only 14% in five years compared to the 25% increase in the charter school tuition rate over the same period.

In a recent interview with The Reporter newspaper following a presentation at the Souderton Charter School Collaborative, State Representative Bob Godshall reiterated his support for charter schools, noting “parents should decide where their students go to school.” (Please use the following link to the article in The Reporter). We make no argument with Mr. Godshall on that point, but we ask our community members to consider if it is fair for the state legislature to dictate local education policy, while mandating a flawed tuition rate. The state legislature requires school districts to fund charter schools at inflated rates while also refusing to participate in the funding for this second school system (remember, the state stopped reimbursing school districts for charter school costs in 2010, placing the burden solely on the backs of local taxpayers). The administration and the school board have run out of creative ways to extend the budget far enough to cover charter school costs, and our local taxpayers need relief from the state legislature. 

Finally, we appreciate the support we have received from our community and we urge you to contact your legislators and ask for charter school funding reform. Our students need our advocacy to make positive change happen. 

Thank you,
SASD Leadership

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