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Schmotzer Co-Sponsors Bill to Reform Charter School Payments

The state legislator promotes the bill as an immediate savings for taxpayers.

 (D-Pennsylvania's 22nd House District) is trying to make the most out of his brief time in office.

Schmotzer, a former Baldwin-Whitehall School Board member who lives in , will represent all of  and part of Whitehall in the state House of Representatives through the end of 2012, but he's hoping to help pass legislation that will live on into 2013 and beyond.

Schmotzer is welcoming a new charter and cyber charter school reform bill—introduced by Rep. Mike Fleck (R-Huntingdon/Blair/Mifflin counties)—while also laying out four principles that Schmotzer believes must be in any bill to reform those schools.

"It's only fair to taxpayers for all schools to play by the same rules," Schmotzer said in a news release, "especially at a time when public schools are still coping with last year's $1 billion in state education funding cuts, and local property taxpayers want to avoid another round of trickle-down tax hikes."

The new bill (H.B. 2364), which can be read in its entirety here, prevents charter school operators from using public school dollars to contract lobbyists, provides for an annual audit of charter schools, caps reimbursements to charter schools at the same level that school districts receive reimbursements from the state, and more.

Watch a press conference regarding the bill, featuring Fleck, here.

"Charter and cyber charter are public schools, and they're here to stay," Fleck said during the conference. "However, I think it's time we have a thorough examination of how they operate. Charters are a different model of public education—no doubt. Nevertheless, we simply cannot hold them to an entirely different standard of accountability.

"They are not the 'sacred cow.'"

Said Schmotzer in a release, "These reforms should take effect starting with the 2012-13 school year, not be delayed a year as some Republicans are calling for. We can provide this relief immediately to school districts and their taxpayers. These reforms would provide at least $45.8 million in savings for the coming school year and probably much more than that.

"In addition to the direct fiscal reforms, I am pleased the bill keeps local control over charter school approval, unlike competing legislation that would strip that authority from locally elected boards and place it in the hands of bureaucrats in Harrisburg."

Schmotzer said that any bill to reform the financing of charter and cyber charter schools should address these four key areas, according to a release:

  • Limiting unassigned fund balances for charter and cyber charter schools consistent with the limits already in effect for traditional public schools. In 2010, the auditor general reported that charter schools had $108 million in reserve funds. Nearly half of charter schools had a cumulative reserve fund balance above traditional public schools' limit of 12 percent of their annual spending. The charter school balances ranged as high as 95 percent.
  • Removing the "double dip" for pension costs by charter and cyber charter schools. Presently, a school district's cost for retirement expenditures is not subtracted from expenditures in the tuition calculation that determines funding for charters. This sets up a "double dip" since state law guarantees charter schools reimbursement for their retirement costs. The Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials estimates that between 2011-12 and 2016-17, eliminating the "double dip" would save school districts $510 million, including $45.8 million in savings for 2012-13.
  • Limiting the amount of special education funding that a charter or cyber charter school receives per student to its school district's total per-pupil spending for special education services. The state funding formula's 16-percent cap on school district special education population does not apply to charter schools. An official of Bensalem High School in Bucks County testified last year that this results in paying $3,425 more per charter school special education student than Bensalem is paying for its own special education students.
  • Requiring year-end audits by the state Department of Education to determine the actual costs of education services of charter and cyber charter schools, followed by an annual year-end final reconciliation process of tuition payments from school districts against those actual costs. Any overpayments would be returned to the charter schools' school districts. In the 2010-11 school year, non-special education tuition rates per student ranged from $4,478 to $16,915.

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bd July 07, 2012 at 06:32 PM
Thanks Mr. Healy. That answers my question. Marty Schmotzer is promoting himself and issues press releases that the Patch publishes. I simply find it interesting that other media outlets do not find his self-promotions newsworthy. On a better subject - are you planning to do any article on the B-17 Superfortress that has been flying out of the County airport? That thing is huge.
Tom Barchfeld July 07, 2012 at 11:09 PM
Just goes to show you that this "Representative" will cut something that will improve education for children. Is this not the same person who stole $50,000 from his County government office to pay off a $15,000 gambling debt to his bookie? And the Democratic Party endorsed him. And the Democratic voters voted him in! How dumb can you be to vote a man like this into office with such a complete lack of character and judgement!!
Bob B. July 08, 2012 at 01:57 AM
Tom - I am a resident of Baldwin Township and it is embarrassing that this person is our representative even for this short period of time. I, for one, would not and did not vote for him. Yes, he is the one who did this and came out (in a way) smelling like a rose. He changed his name (middle name from Leopold to Michael) to get on the ballot I believe. He was on our school board several times along with his brother. He has no business handling our school district or tax money PERIOD. If you have read or know of the several families that trade favors to keep each other in some type of political power be it on the school board or as a state rep or a job as a created job of dean of students at our high school you know who the players are. Thankfully, we will not have to state that Martin Schmotzer is our state rep for too much longer. We, as taxpayers, will insist that a complete audit is done after his time is up. In the meantime, be sure to keep reading this patch because there is sure to be a Marty Schmotzer headline at least once a week.
NOTIME4THIS July 12, 2012 at 10:55 PM
WHAT A BUFFOON
Jon Wain July 14, 2012 at 08:39 PM
is this directed to the math teachers of baldwin whitehall.after all isn't it the math that got him into hot water in the first place? it's like oj preaching self control.

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