State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

Charters dodge funding changes for special needs students

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Jul 14, 2014 5:03 PM

Photo by Wikimedia Commons

A recently approved tweak to special education funding won't apply to charter schools, after all. State lawmakers shied away from the changes after charters argued it would have been unfair.

There will be changes to the way traditional public schools receive any new funding for special education -- it'll be based on the needs of individual students and school districts, instead of being tied to an average special needs cost across the state.

But charter schools are still receiving special education funding under the same flat rate. They got lawmakers to back off of changes when they pointed out the potential hit to their budgets.

Jim Buckheit, head of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators, says lawmakers see charter school special education payments as one part of a larger funding system that needs to be corrected.

"They didn't want to pull one leg out from the table and have the whole table fall down," Buckheit said. "So I think their interest is looking at the entire issue about how we fund public schools and charter schools."

The funding method will apply only to new state aid put toward special education - about 420 $20 million this year, while roughly $1 billion will be allocated according to the older system.

Education advocates say the larger issue of charter schools funding - for special education and everything else - will likely be examined by a state commission over the next year.

Edit: This post has been corrected to reflect that the new special education funding amounts to $20 million, not $420 million. 

Published in State House Sound Bites

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