When it comes to charter school reform, state Education Secretary Pedro Rivera said he’s on board with helping create a plan that works for everyone.
“Traditional schools and charter schools will agree that some aspects of the current law doesn’t make sense or (is) not working,” Rivera said. “I’m really in favor of bringing stakeholders to the table and coming up with a comprehensive (plan) that makes sense, but that is something that we, as a department, advocate heavily for, but we want to do it right.”
The topic of charter schools was introduced Friday morning during the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools conference when Penns Valley Area School District Superintendent Brian Griffith asked Rivera what the plans are at the state level to improve charter school accountability for performance and funding.
He said his concerns were that there could be an “over-identification” of special needs students among those who attend charter schools.
Rivera said it’s something state representatives would likely look into.
We just need to create equity in how we identify funding for special education students in our traditional public schools and how we fund those (who) identify as special education students in charter schools. That would make a significant difference in funding for local schools districts.
Pedro Rivera, state education secretary
“We just need to create equity in how we identify funding for special education students in our traditional public schools and how we fund those (who) identify as special education students in charter schools,” Rivera said. “That would make a significant difference in funding for local schools districts.”
Griffith said Penns Valley Area spends about $11,200 per regular education student and about $20,100 per special education student to attend a charter school.
Those figures, he said, are calculated based on annual district expenditures, and are equal to about the same amount the district spends on a student who attends a Penns Valley Area school.
PVASD slated to spend about $1.2 million next school year on charter school tuition
Next year, Penns Valley Area’s budget calls for about $1.2 million in charter school tuition.
Charter schools are funded on a price per student tuition by the district where the child resides.
During the conference, Rivera also discussed the importance and state focus on educational equity, and unveiled new goals the state has for public education.
Educational equity, as defined by Rivera, is a measure of equal opportunity and resources for schools in the commonwealth.
He said this year’s state Department of Education focal points are enhancing graduation and college readiness standards; further developing the Future Ready PA Index that evaluates schools based on student success and programs provided for students; and implementing more programs to help target the Every Student Succeeds Act, including teacher preparation, assessing students less and creating a new accountability plan based on the needs of schools and the communities they serve.