Charters dodge Pa. changes to special education funding

    A recently approved tweak to special education funding won’t apply to charter schools in Pennsylvania after all. State lawmakers shied away from the changes after charters argued it would have been unfair.

    There will be changes to the way traditional public schools receive any new funding for special education — it’ll be based on the needs of individual students and school districts, instead of being tied to an average special needs cost across the state.

    But charter schools are still receiving special education funding under the same flat rate. They got lawmakers to back off of changes when they pointed out the potential hit to their budgets.

    Lawmakers see charter school special education payments as one part of a larger funding system that needs to be corrected, said Jim Buckheit, head of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators.

    “They didn’t want to pull one leg out from the table and have the whole table fall down,” Buckheit said. “So I think their interest is looking at the entire issue about how we fund public schools and charter schools.”

    The funding method will apply only to new state aid put toward special education – about $420 million this year, while roughly $1 billion will be allocated according to the older system.

    Education advocates say the larger issue of charter schools funding – for special education and everything else – will likely be examined by a state commission over the next year.

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