Quakertown Community School District has become the third district in Bucks to endorse charter school reforms.
Board members unanimously endorsed a resolution last week calling on the state to change the way such schools are funded. Director Ron Jackson said there was weight behind these resolutions, more than 100 of which have passed statewide, and predicted a response from Harrisburg on the issue.
House Bill 2261 and Senate Bill 1024 would revamp the special education fair funding formula, which currently requires public school districts to pay a rate to charters far in excess of what the special education services would cost a child with mild disabilities. They would also prevent cyber charter schools from charging public school districts more than $9,500 in tuition per student. If passed, data show the measures would save school districts about $280 million.
Currently, area charters and online schools draw 148 Quakertown area students, attracted to their dynamic arts programs and ability to work at their own pace, but costing the district anywhere from $12,000 to $24,000 per pupil.
Superintendent Bill Harner stressed he was not against charters, but said the current funding formula was “incredibly wasteful.” Harner noted there were less expensive support services in place for special education students at charters, and he questioned why Quakertown was paying them more than $30,000 a year.
Board member David Ochmanowicz felt the resolution didn’t go far enough. “It doesn’t say we don’t support charter schools at all, which I would like it to say.”
Director Jackson disagreed. “The resolution doesn’t support charter schools in any way shape or form.” Quoting from the document, Jackson said the alternative schools are “on a statewide basis are the most identified source of pressure on school district budgets.”
In the 2018-19 school year, the district spent $663,213 for 37 Quakertown area students to attend physical charter schools, and nearly $2 million to educate 100 students in cyber charter schools.