Notebook: City Charters Get $100M More for Special Ed Than They Spend

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.

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Auditor: State Oversight of Charter Schools Is a ‘Mess’

Source: Pennsylvania Department of Education. Taken from the Auditor General's report.

Source: Pennsylvania Department of Education. Taken from the Auditor General’s report.

After a series of public meetings around the commonwealth, state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale has called for an overhaul of the state’s charter school system. In addition to adding an independent charter oversight board, DePasquale called for the restoration of charter funds to school districts.

A report released yesterday (PDF) built on public meetings in Allegheny County, Easton, Ebensburg (it’s near Altoona), Fairless Hills and Philadelphia. The Philadelphia meeting was March 15th.

The Inquirer’s Martha Woodall reports DePasquale said “several participants in the public meetings compared the current situation to the wild, wild west.”

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Philadelphia’s School Crisis: A City On The Brink

Photography by Clint Blowers

Photograph by Clint Blowers

My family and I moved out of Philadelphia last year. We did so reluctantly, and with a crippling heaping of guilt.

It wasn’t the crime, or the taxes, or the grit. No, we left for the same reason that untold thousands have decamped for the suburbs before us: the crummy state of the city’s public schools, a chronic and seemingly immutable fact of life in Philadelphia.

The failings go way beyond the typical struggles of a big urban district. In December, the latest national assessment found that just 14 percent of Philadelphia fourth-graders were proficient or better at reading, compared to 26 percent in other big cities and 34 percent nationally. Of the 25 largest U.S. cities, Philadelphia ranks 22nd in college degree attainment. Graduates of the School District of Philadelphia are particularly bad off; only about 10 percent of district alums go on to get degrees.

Still, it wasn’t the statistics that drove us away. It was the deflating sense that there was no clear and affordable path for our two young kids to get the education they need—particularly our son, who has some special needs. Despite our love for the city, our belief that Philadelphia is genuinely on the rise, and endless conversations in which we tried to rationalize staying, my wife and I decided we had to leave. The day the moving van arrived, I didn’t feel angry so much as I felt ashamed. That embarrassment is, I think, not entirely uncommon. And it’s a sign that the failings of the city’s schools are damaging Philadelphia even more than in the past.

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