Pa. school districts call for charter reform

Latrobe Bulletin by Joe Wells, July 29, 2022

Since the 2011-12 school year, the tuition cost per student paid to charter schools has grown anywhere from 25% to 46% for area school districts. During the same time period, tuition costs for students with special needs have increased 54% to almost 98% at those school districts.

The rising cost of Pennsylvania charter schools are straining local school districts’ budgets, school officials said during a press conference. Five school administrators from southwestern Pennsylvania spoke about the struggles their districts are having and called for changes to the charter school law and allocation. The press conference was hosted by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association. Among the school officials was Tim Kantor, superintendent of Ligonier Valley School District. Since the 2011-12 school year, the district has paid $17,961,968 to charter schools and seen the cost of tuition to those schools per student increase 25% ($11,972.50 per child). For students with special needs, the cost paid to charter schools at LVSD has risen 77% ($29,310.47 per child), according to data from the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE). The increased tuition isn’t held to just LVSD though. Both Greater Latrobe and Derry Area school districts have seen similar increases. At GLSD, the tuition cost per student increased from $7,511.12 during the 2011-12 school year to $11,031.92 – a 46.8% increase. Special education students cost the district $20,374.55 this past year compared to $13,207.27 a decade ago. DASD saw a 97.8% increase for special education students attending charter schools – going from $14,375.29 to $28,447.66 in 10 years. Student tuition also increased 40% to $13,011.78 in 2021-22.

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