Dale Mezzacappa, a reporter at The Notebook, reports today that charter schools in Philadelphia get $100 million more for special education than they spend.
The Notebook did the analysis of the $100 million gap using statewide calculations from Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officers (PDF). In all of Pennsylvania, charter schools take in $350 million for special education and spend just $156 million. Half of the state’s charter schools are in Philadelphia.
In the article, Mezzacappa explains how the state creates "perverse" incentives for schools: Special ed students are paid for with a flat rate no matter the level of their disability. In Philadelphia this school year, charters got $22,312 for each special education student, compared to $8,419 for each regular education student.
“Now charter schools have an incentive to identify kids with the lowest level of service needs and avoid those with the highest level of service needs,” Susan Gobreski of Education Voters PA told The Notebook. An analysis showed Charters have many more special ed students in the speech and language impaired category, students that are much less expensive to educate than those with, say, autism.
“The assertion that charter schools are getting a windfall of $200 million per year is a lie, just like the assertion that we cut $1 billion from education is a lie,” State Rep. Dan Truitt (R-Chester) said in an email. “We should all be offended by this organization and its representatives for attempting to mislead legislators."
Meanwhile, State Rep. Bernie O'Neill (R-Bucks County) said charter operators "admitted to me that they use special ed funding for basic education, for management company costs, for lots of things."