Monday, May 17, 2021

PA: The Special Ed Funding Triple Whammy

Are you ready for the best explainer yet for the screwed-up state of Pennsylvania's charter funding when it comes to special ed students?  

Here at the Institute, we're fans of the work of Research for Action. The Philly based research group is meticulously independent and well-conceived and executed. We're previously looked at their work on test-based (poverty-punishing) assessment, the failure of cyber-charters, and the astonishing PA gap between students and teachers of color.

Now they've produced a video outlining the troubles with Pennsylvania's formula for funding special ed in charter schools. 

This matters because right now Governor Tom Wolf is trying to fix this, and charter school advocates are screaming that the governor is trying to cut their funding. That's technically a true, but in spirit, it's a lie. PA's charter schools continue to be overpaid--in some cases, hugely overpaid--for providing special ed services. If your folks give you a hundred dollar bill each day with which to buy lunch at Burger King, and they suddenly decide that maybe they should just give you the actual cost of a meal, you have no honest basis for complaining that they are trying to starve you by slashing your lunch allowance.

I've written before about how PA's charter special ed funding is out of whack, but even I had missed one aspect pointed out here--it's not just that charters can get more, maybe even way more, to educate a student than the sending school spent, but because of the quirks in the system, that overpayment actually compounds and gets worse year after year. If you've wondered how charter schools in Chester Upland could be getting more than $40K per special ed student, well, this explains it. Take a look.

UPDATE: For folks who stumble upon this post and want some further text-based insight into PA's special ed funding woes, let me recommend this piece by edufunding expert Bruce Baker, the source of many insights about school funding.

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