Editorial: Constitution reform placed on the desk by legislators | opinion

The dust has settled on the state budget approved at the end of June, and the school districts have adjusted their municipal budgets accordingly. While lawmakers and Governor Tom Wolf pat themselves on the back for increasing funding for public schools, property owners across the region are grappling with tax bills that are a heavy burden for many.

The $ 40.8 billion state budget included a $ 416 million increase in funding for schools, including $ 100 million in LevelUp funding for boroughs in financially troubled areas including Reading, Norristown , Pottstown and Coatesville. The increases have been estimated in these financially troubled counties, but officials across the region found that a little cash won’t solve the systemic problems holding back schools in Pennsylvania.

Topics on this list include Pennsylvania’s antiquated Charter School law, which hasn’t been updated in 24 years. The charter reform measures proposed by Wolf in February and supported by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association had supported 407 of the state’s 500 districts, including nearly all of the districts in southeastern Pennsylvania.

Wolf described it as a missed opportunity not to tackle the charter reform. “I won’t rest until we fix the broken charter school law to save nearly $ 400 million annually by getting charter school companies to focus on education rather than maximizing profits at the taxpayer’s expense,” he said at the Signing of the state budget on June 30th.

Proponents of the charter reform had hopes for House Bill 272 of State Representative Joe Ciresis. The Montgomery County Democratic proposal won over seventy bipartisan supporters and was believed to have a fair chance of getting a vote in the legislature. But as with previous proposals, the leadership failed to win a vote.

Lobbyists and advocates of charter schools have spread the message that reform would cripple the ability for families to choose alternatives to the schools they live in – an argument popular during a pandemic that closed schools and learning bothered.

Proponents of reform counter that the proposals aim to create charters on par with district schools with transparency and accountability to state standards.

The proposed reforms would require that charter school trustees and administrators live to the same financial and ethical reporting standards that school public board members and school district officials meet, including open session and open record requirements.

The reforms are also designed to control the fee structure and benefit taxpayers by:

• Demand nationwide, data-driven tuition fees for cyber charter schools to ensure that all taxpayers get the same results for the same dollars, and end the huge tuition differences in neighboring counties.

• Committing charter schools to use the fair funding special education formula that public schools use to ensure students in need get the results they deserve and to prevent massive tax hikes for homeowners in counties that have a rapidly growing population of students with special needs, and

• Requires charter schools to have sufficient insurance to support children and families if the charter is closed or the parent company goes out of business.

Charter schools that are not overseen by the state ministry of education need a structure of accountability to meet educational standards, reformers say.

HB 272 suggests creating a state grading system for charters in order to allow high-performing schools even more self-determination while at the same time directing attention to low-performing schools in order to better help the children.

It also calls for new cyber charter schools to be stopped until the existing schools improve – currently, three out of four charter schools are in the bottom five percent of schools across the state – and hires the PDE to create them Enrollment and performance standards.

Local school district finance directors have repeatedly highlighted the increasing impact of payments to public charter schools on local budgets. According to Ciresi, for every dollar paid in property tax this year, twenty cents will go to charter schools. 14 Cyber ​​Charter Schools collect more than half a billion dollars in taxpayers’ money.

State lawmakers put this important issue on the table during the summer break in late June.

Tax bills due August 31 reflect that failure: homeowners pay the price.