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Changes Afoot for Pa.'s Charter School Law?

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Lawmakers in Pennsylvania are poised to reevaluate the way that charter schools in the state are funded, with a new bill addressing such concerns currently in the state senate.

As an article in the Pittsburgh Tribune explains, right now, Pennsylvania charter schools receive varying amounts of funding depending on the home district of their students. So a student from one district may funnel $10,000 of per-pupil funding to the charter school, but a student coming from the district next door may bring $13,000 to the same charter school.

Both supporters and critics of charter schools in the state say it's time to take a hard look at the actual costs of educating students in charter schools to inform a rewrite of the funding formula.

On Oct. 16, the senate education committee passed a new bill that will do just that, although in the past three years, similar legislation has not gained traction and successfully made it out of the legislature. But the article in the Pittsburgh Tribune suggests this year may be different, as the debate is happening against the backdrop of a federal indictment of Nicholas Trombetta, the founder of the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School who is accused of siphoning $1 million from the school through shell companies, prompting lawmakers to take a closer look at how charter schools in the state are funded. 

However, not everyone is pleased with the changes suggested in the bill. The Education Law Center, a nonprofit organization that advocates for public education in Pennsylvania, recently published a point-by-point critique of the bill as written, saying that the current legislation would "permit any charter school, good or bad, to grow without permission" and that it would "permit charter schools to unilaterally amend the terms of their charter."

The group also opposes the provisions in the bill that would double the length of charters from five to ten years and allow universities to become charter school authorizers.

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