State Rep. Pam Snyder is urging immediate action for cyber charter school reform after Brownsville Area School District was forced to furlough eight teachers last week.
“I represent all or part of eight school districts, and every single school superintendent has told me the exact same thing – that it is financially crushing the school district. I think there are a lot of people paying their school property taxes who have no idea how much money is flowing out of their local school district because of cyber charter schools,” she said.
The bill, H.B. 526, would mandate that parents or guardians would pay tuition if they are in a district which offers cyber charter school, but opt to place their child in a different cyber school. The measure, which is awaiting action in the House Education Committee, would keep property tax funds in the home district. Snyder said she supports parents having a choice, but thinks funds should stay in the district.
“Our school districts are bleeding,” she said.
Brownsville Area School District Superintendent Dr. Keith Hartbauer said the district budgeted $1.2 million for cyber charter school this year, which would have paid salaries for each of the furloughed teachers. While he hopes to bring the majority of the teachers back, he said none of them should lose their jobs.
“We’re in a situation where 70 to 80 students are in some form of a charter school,” he said.
The cost for each student who leaves the district for another cyber or charter school is $12,000 to $14,000, and $26,000 if the student is identified as special needs, he said.
Hartbauer said he has been working with Snyder on reform for two years, and wants to see action in the state.
“I think she fully understands what the schools are going through and the need for the reform,” he said. “Across the board, there needs to be reform, and that’s why the bill is so important now, especially in districts that are socioeconomically stressed.”
Snyder said she thinks many taxpayers do not understand that their property tax dollars are leaving their home district to go toward cyber charter schools. She noted billboards and advertisements for cyber charter schools are paid for with those tax dollars.
“The amount of taxpayer dollars flowing out of your home school district, I think, would be shocking to a lot of people,” she said. “This is a huge issue, and it’s one that truly needs to be addressed because it is not fair to public school districts and it’s definitely not fair to taxpayers.”