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Special Education Funding in Pennsylvania Charter Schools

For many years, policymakers, researchers, and education stakeholders in Pennsylvania have been examining and debating the Commonwealth’s system of funding special education in charter schools. Despite all this attention, there remains significant confusion about how the current system works.

This project provides an episode of PACER TV to clear up that confusion and demonstrate the current system for calculating charter school special education tuition. The video provides a description of how tuition rates in many Pennsylvania communities are skewed by the following “Triple-Whammy” of problems:

1. A false assumption in current law miscounts the number of students used to determine per pupil tuition rates, which often inflates the amount of tuition charter schools receive.
2. Students with high-cost special education needs are often under enrolled in charter schools, which drives up per pupil costs in districts.
3. Overpayments from #1 and #2 are baked into the calculation and compound into future years, further inflating charter tuition over time.


RFA is grateful to the William Penn Foundation and The Heinz Endowments for generous support of the Pennsylvania Clearinghouse for Education Research (PACER) project. The opinions expressed in this project are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the funders.

Additional thanks to the many members of the RFA team who contributed to this project, including Kate Callahan, Anna Shaw-Amoah, Mary Eddins, Dae Kim and Samantha Slade.