Fleck Bill to Place Moratorium on New Cyber Charter Schools Advances
Legislation authored by state Rep. Mike Fleck (R-Huntingdon/Blair/Mifflin) that would maintain the current number of cyber charter schools in Pennsylvania until funding issues are addressed, was approved Monday by the House Education Committee. House Bill 980 now heads to the full House for consideration.
“The appropriate manner of funding cyber charter schools is a complex issue on which there is significant disagreement.” said Fleck. “Allowing the number of approved cyber charter schools to increase before the General Assembly addresses this issue would only exacerbate the pressures on the funding system. My bill would give us ample time, to develop and consider funding solutions.”
House Bill 980 would place a three-year moratorium on the processes through the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) which receives, reviews and acts upon cyber charter school applications. During the moratorium, which will begin on July 1, 2013, and continue through June 30, 2016, PDE would not receive or act on new cyber charter school applications.
There are currently 16 cyber charter schools located in the Commonwealth, which gives students and parents a large number of options to consider. Only the state of Arizona has more cyber charter schools in operation.
Fleck’s measure would also set limits on unassigned fund balances that may be accumulated by charter school entities and require them to refund excess unassigned fund balances to school districts.
“The Public School Code currently limits the unassigned fund balances that school districts may amass, but places no similar restrictions on charter school entities,” said Fleck. “My proposed legislation would level the playing field between school districts and charter school entities, by requiring them to adhere to the same requirements. Furthermore, school districts would benefit by receiving refunds of excess tuition paid to a charter school entity in the prior school year.”
In addition, the committee, of which Fleck is a member, approved legislation that would allow school districts to deduct the full costs of pension contributions and food service before making payments to cyber charter schools during the next two years.
House Bill 618 would also increase transparency and accountability, ensure for the enforcement of compulsory attendance, apply teacher evaluations and academic quality measures, create a funding commission to examine funding reforms, and allow for direct payments to charter schools. The bill now heads to the full House for consideration.
“House Bill 618 is a good start toward reforming the funding formula we currently use for Pennsylvania’s charter and cyber charter schools,” said Fleck. “We need to take a hard look at how our education dollars are spent and ensure they are being spent wisely.”
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