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Friday, February 27, 2015

PA House Bill To Reform Charter & Cyber Schools Funding Passes Committee

Reese Charter Education Reform Bill Receives Committee Approval

HARRISBURG -- A bill authored by Rep. Mike Reese (R-Westmoreland/Somerset) aimed at improving charter and cyber education in Pennsylvania was passed by the House Education Committee on Wednesday.

Reese said House Bill 530 meets two important objectives by strengthening school choice but also improving the formula used to fund charter and cyber charter education.

“Enabling parents to choose quality education options for their children is an important goal here,” Reese said. “But quality education is expensive and every dollar must be spent wisely and responsibly.”

The bill proposes that charter schools use an academic performance matrix developed by the Pennsylvania Board of Education and that teacher evaluations be performed, which is similar to traditional public schools. It also aims to increase enforcement of current truancy laws. Charter schools meeting these objectives will have extended charter periods. Also included is language to improve public transparency and auditing requirements.

House Bill 530 also addresses a long-standing problem with the funding formula for cyber charter schools. It will allow school districts to deduct food service costs and cyber education expenses from the previous year from their per-pupil expense paid to cyber charter schools. Combined, the deductions are estimated to save public school districts roughly $25 million annually.

The legislation calls for a charter school funding advisory commission to be assembled and work toward identifying further corrections. The commission will include members of the Pennsylvania House and Senate and various education professionals with equal representation from both charter entities and school districts.

Reese explained that revising cyber education funding is imperative.

“The funding of cyber education has become a significant expense for local school districts,” Reese said. “But the funding formula is inherently flawed and lacks critical oversight. We have to make this a priority.”

The bill will now be considered on the House floor. During the 2013-14 legislative session, a similar bill was approved by the House with a 133-64 bipartisan vote but it was not considered by the Senate.

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