Commentary: State needs a rational fix for its method of funding charter students with disabilities

Dec. 1, 2014 – by David Lapp, Education Law Center – Pennsylvania’s calculation for funding special education in charter schools is broken. In Philadelphia, special education tuition paid by the District to charter schools has doubled from $11,000 per student to over $23,000 per student in just 12 years. During the same period, special education revenue to the District from the state stagnated at under $5,000 per student.

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ELC Letter Opposing Cyber Charter Expansion

Nov. 24, 2014 – The Education Law Center submitted a letter to Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq urging her to reject the latest round of cyber charter school applications based on the continued lack of accountability for these schools, which have shown poor academic results, excessive amounts of student turnover, and periodic criminal fiscal negligence.

Read the letter.



Three NEPA schools challenge funding

Nov. 11, 2014 – By Robert Swift, Scranton Times-Tribune – A Wilkes-Barre mother joined school districts and advocacy groups Monday in a lawsuit calling for an end to sharp inequities in funding for public education throughout Pennsylvania.

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School advocates sue Pennsylvania over funding

Nov. 10, 2014 – Peter Jackson, Associated Press – Public school advocates sued top state officials Monday, alleging that an irrational system of distributing state subsidies is creating academic inequities and depriving many students of the “thorough and efficient” public education system that the state constitution guarantees.

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Lawsuit: School Funding in Pennsylvania is Unconstitutional

Nov. 10, 2014 – By Patrick Kerkstra, Philadelphia Magazine – Seventeen years ago, the city and School District of Philadelphia filed suit against Pennsylvania, accusing it of failing to provide sufficient education funding in violation of the state Constitution, which obligates the state legislature to “provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education.”

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ELC Statement on State Budget: Missed opportunity to address school funding crisis

UPDATED July 22, 2014

Governor Corbett’s 2014-15 state budget does little to address Pennsylvania’s systemic public education funding crisis.

“This budget was a missed opportunity for the legislature and the Governor —  and a loss for public school students,” said Rhonda Brownstein, Executive Director of the Education Law Center. “There were several options for our state leaders to not only provide adequate funding to our schools, but to also enact cost-saving measures.”

The General Assembly pursued a fix to the state’s special education funding system that would have addressed the flawed approach to providing funding to students with disabilities in public schools — both charter-operated and district-run. The fix would have more accurately calculated costs and aligned resources to those costs, providing a significant savings to school districts throughout the state and ensuring that children with disabilities receive the services they need. Instead, the whims of political insiders thwarted that effort — resulting in a job half done that does not fix the admitted problem.

The effort to secure a consistent state revenue source for schools was also abandoned, leaving the legislature and Gov. Corbett to fall back on one-time funding schemes and last-minute deals to create a patchwork of public school funding that remains completely disconnected from the cost to provide all students with the necessary resources to meet the state’s academic standards.

“We cannot continue to rely, year after year, on political horse-trading and last-minute budgeting contortions that, ultimately, leave our schools lacking basic resources and leave our communities struggling to make up the difference with local revenues,” said Brownstein. “Our public schools require, and deserve, a thorough and efficient system — an actual system — of education funding as mandated by our state’s constitution.”

DN Editorial: Sick of it all

May 23, 2014 – Philadelphia Daily News Editorial – The death of any child is a tragedy. The death of two children who fell ill while at school is unspeakable. And while the cause of death for a first-grader at Andrew Jackson School has not been determined, both cases demand that we take a hard look at the impact the district’s budget realities may be having on children.

Read the full editorial.


Op-Ed: Major flaws in charter school bill

March 9, 2014 – David Lapp, Special to the Sunday News – Significant problems exist with Pennsylvania’s current charter school policy, and we agree with state Sen. Lloyd Smucker that charter school reform is needed in the commonwealth.

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Pa. charter reform bill advances, draws criticism

November 4, 2013 – By Kathy Matheson and Marc Levy, Associated Press – A bill to overhaul Pennsylvania’s charter school law would gut local control of the alternative schools by eliminating enrollment caps and giving universities the power to authorize new charters, opponents said Monday.

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Trying to live up to special-ed law amid the Philly school budget crisis

October 16, 2013 – by Kevin McCorry –

The Philadelphia School District has at least 20,000 evaluated special-needs students. Each year, the district pays millions in legal fees and lawsuit settlements based on its failure, both proven and alleged, to meet their needs. This year, due to budget cuts, the district shed close to 3,000 staff members.

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Pa. advocates gear up for education funding push

October 01, 2013 – by Susan Snyder, Inquirer Staff Writer –

Its music program was eliminated, 12 percent of its teaching force laid off, and its junior high sports program was slashed. “Cuts at the state level just kill us,” said Jim Duffy, superintendent of the Fannett-Metal School District, a small system in south-central Pennsylvania.

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