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ASD: Charter Schools 'double-dipping' of taxpayers has to stop

By Stephen Althouse, WFMZ.com Reporter
Published On: Nov 21 2013 09:58:19 PM CST
ALLENTOWN, Pa. -

Inundated with a slew of applications for charter schools, the Allentown School District Board of Directors adopted a resolution Thursday night, calling for reform of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's charter and cyber school funding formula.

A terse document, the resolution says the current Pennsylvania funding formula "bears no relationship to the actual instructional costs incurred by the charter schools."

To illustrate that point, the district notes that the charter and cyber school expenditures for the past five years show extraordinary costs that were borne by the district taxpayers. For example, during the 2008-2009 year, the district's charter school expenditures topped more than $6.1 million, while the state reimbursement totaled just a shade over $1.6 million. That gap continued to widen as more than $9.3 million was allocated to charter schools the next year, with roughly that same $1.6 million in state reimbursement coming back to the district.

In the 2011-2012, 2012-2013 years the district received absolutely nothing from the state but shelled out more than $15 million and $17.8 million respectively. If projections for the 2013-2014 year prove accurate, that number will jump to more than $21.2 million with, once again, no reimbursement from the commonwealth.

In addition, the district is required to pay charter and cyber schools for their employer pension contribution as part of the charter school funding formula. However, the commonwealth also reimburses charter schools for up to 50 percent of their pension contribution. This allows the charter and cyber schools to receive payment for the same costs twice.

The district notes this "double dip" is driving the district's taxpayers into the poorhouse, costing them an additional $50 million a year "especially during a time when individual taxpayers cannot afford overpayments due simply to policy flaws," according to the district.

So what to do about all this? The resolution urges the district's legislators to back legislation to correct the tuition and pension payment inequities so that the funding the charter school receives actually "reflects the true costs of educating the child., thus relieving the financial burden charter schools place on school districts and ensuring that local taxpayers are not overpaying for the services these schools provide."

But the resolution didn't stop there. It also urges the entire General Assembly to "correct flawed funding formula for charter schools as part of larger reforms needed to address appropriate mechanisms for authorization, oversight and intervention to remedy various funding and governance concerns."

In other business, directors approved the appointments of two assistant principals to William Allen High School. Cameron Baynes, who is new to the district, and Lily Figueroa, currently supervisor of instruction at Louis E. Dieruff High School, received the board's OK. Baynes will be paid $84,737, while Figueroa will see no change from her current salary. Both moves are effective January 6th.