Harrisburg – Oct. 16, 2015 – Mon Valley lawmakers are demanding that the PA Department of Education halt the scheduled payment of state funds to charter schools and cyber-charters until state funds are first paid to public schools or a more equitable distribution formula is developed.

State Sen. Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny/Westmoreland), Reps. Marc Gergely (D-Allegheny) and Bill Kortz (D-Allegheny) said they have asked for a meeting early next week with Education Secretary Pedro Rivera to formally request a better handling of the matter.

“Public schools are facing incredible difficulties because of the lack of a state budget,” Brewster said. “Now, the little funding they are getting outside of the basic subsidy is being hijacked by charter schools.

“The fact that charters are moving ahead of public schools is ridiculous.”

Charter schools are slated to receive a disbursement next week from funds generated from gaming revenues. Normally, funding for charter schools is deducted from basic education subsidies. However, as a result of the budget impasse the basic funding stream is not available. Since those funds are not available, the funds are then deducted from other state payments.

“Schools in the Mon Valley are facing hardship and financial stress and are struggling to stay open until a budget is finalized,” Kortz said. “During a budget impasse, it is ludicrous that any funds would be deducted from payments for public schools before they receive their subsidy payments.”

According to figures released by the McKeesport Area School District, they were slated to receive $1.2 million in property tax relief payments. Charter schools are slated to take $1.17 million leaving McKeesport with $41,000. Clairton reportedly is set to lose more than $230,000 in gaming reimbursements to charters.

“It is hard to believe that public schools could be dealt another blow in a state budget impasse,” Gergely said. “Public schools should not have to stand behind charter schools in the payment line.

“This is an extraordinary situation and the fiscal pain that school districts and taxpayers feel should not be made worse by taking away funds and giving them to private schools.”

Brewster said that given the exceptionally difficult financial times brought on schools by the budget impasse, PDE should suspend the disbursement of funds to charters and cyber-charters until all school districts understand how payments are processed.

“State statutes that cover the distribution of funds to schools are clearly not equipped to deal with equity issues when there is an extended budget dispute,” Brewster said. “We need to look at these laws as part of a comprehensive review.”

He said that he would work with Kortz, Gergely and other lawmakers on legislation to ensure that this situation does not happen in the future and that public schools are protected.

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Contact: Tim Joyce
Phone: 412 380-2242
Email: tjoyce@pasenate.com

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