Policy hearing details need for cyber, charter school reform

Hearing highlights reimbursement issues, stress it creates for taxpayers

STROUDSBURG, May 8 – Taxpayers, public school superintendents and advocates detailed the reasons reform is needed at a House Majority Policy Committee hearing Monday in the Stroudsburg High School auditorium.

The reform is needed to ensure a fair education funding system for everyone, including taxpayers and students in public education.

“I have never been shy about saying exactly what is going on, and our current system is taxpayer thievery that has devastated homeowners and local businesses,” said hearing host Rep. Tarah Probst, who represents portions of Monroe and Pike counties. “In the past it has gone unnoticed, and we have had public officials blame increasing school budgets on teachers’ unions. In reality, the reimbursement formula – which isn’t based on actual costs – allows for overinflated tuition payments to cyber and charter schools and has driven school budget increases. We need to reform the law so all schools fall under the same rules.”

Despite Pennsylvania’s recent increase in education spending, the state still ranks toward the bottom in the nation in spending for public education. Testifiers detailed where a large chunk of the spending for public schools go, with millions headed to cyber and charter school reimbursement – which is not tied to actual costs. The charter and cyber school law has not been reformed since it passed in 1997.

Probst has authored two bills H.B. 722 and H.B. 723 to ensure public schools and taxpayer dollars are used for accurate reimbursement.

“Students and their parents will always have the choice to attend cyber or charter schools,” Policy Committee Vice Chair Mary Isaacson said. “Choice is not part of the debate. The debate is centered on why Pennsylvania allows a reimbursement process to exist that doesn’t take into account actual costs, and what can be done to create a fairer system for students and taxpayers.”

Testifiers at the hearing included Cosmas Curry, the superintendent from Stroudsburg Area School District; Elizbeth Robison, the superintendent from Pocono Mountain School District; and Brian Blaum, the superintendent from Delaware Valley School District. The committee also heard testimony from Susan Spicka, the executive director of Education Voters of Pennsylvania, retired professor Merlyn Clark and taxpayer Patricia Griffin.

Information about this hearing and other House Majority Policy Committee hearings can be found at pahouse.com/policy. A hearing agenda a submitted testimony from testifiers for this hearing and prior hearings can be found at pahouse.com/PolicyCommittee/HearingMaterials. Photos to be used for publication can be found at pahouse.com/PolicyCommittee/Galleries.