Ciresi introduces bill to allow school districts to choose whether to pay outside charter schools

HARRISBURG, June 4 – State Rep. Joe Ciresi introduced legislation this week that would allow school districts to choose whether to pay charter schools that are outside their district boundaries and, therefore, outside of district oversight.

Currently, school districts must pay for students from their district to attend a charter school, even if the charter school is located outside of the district’s boundaries and has not been authorized by the district.

“This means that school districts are making state-mandated payments to charter schools without any ability to ensure those district students are receiving a quality education,” said Ciresi, D-Montgomery. “It’s unfair to require districts to pay these schools when the districts have had no say in whether or not the particular charter school should be authorized in the first place.”

House Bill 1571 would give the local school board of a sending school district the option of voting by June 30 of each year whether to make payments to a charter school outside the district’s boundaries and over which the district has no oversight. The bill was introduced with 18 bipartisan cosponsors.

If the district chose not to pay and a student continued to attend the charter school outside the district boundaries, the student or his parents or guardians would be responsible for tuition. The student would also no longer be included in the local school district’s “average daily membership” calculation for determining state funding, and the district would not qualify for state temporary assistance or grants available to help districts with charter school payments.

“Having served on a school board for many years, I’m well aware of how limited school funding is. Growing mandated charter payments have been a drain on school district budgets, burdening our residents with higher property taxes. School districts in my legislative district spend millions each year on charter school payments. My bill would increase fairness for districts, ensure that taxpayer money is being well-spent, and deliver savings to the taxpayers,” Ciresi said.

Ciresi is also a co-sponsor and active proponent of bipartisan cyber charter reform through H.B. 526, which would end the use of taxpayer funds to pay for external cyber charter education if the school district already offers a comparable cyber school program. School districts in the 146th Legislative District – Pottstown, Pottsgrove, Spring-Ford, and Perkiomen Valley – will spend a combined $9.7 million on charter and cyber charter tuition in the coming year.