Pa. charter schools wary of the fine print in Gov. Wolf’s budget

Pa. charter schools wary of the fine print in Gov. Wolf’s budget

By Kevin McCorry

Originally posted here: http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/local/education/79777-pa-charter-schools-weary-about-the-fine-print-in-gov-wolfs-budget

Cautious optimism flutters in the hearts of Pennsylvania educators, but less so among the state’s charter schools.

Gov. Tom Wolf’s first budget proposal showed an intention to invest substantially in public education.

Over four years, Wolf would like to boost the state’s share of preK-12 education spending by $2 billion through a comprehensive set of tax increases, tied to a plan to offer relief from the local tax primarily used to fund education, the real estate levy. In Philadelphia, the tax relief funds would go to cut the wage tax.

Traditional public school districts and charters alike have much to gain if the Democrat can successfully navigate his vision through the capitol’s Republican-held legislative chambers.

Despite their support for the improved funding, charter school leaders have been scratching their heads at some of the fine print.

Under the Wolf plan, beginning with 2014-15 school year, charters would face annual audits and be forced to return any funds beyond their yearly expenditures to the home school district — depriving the charter of its ability to have an emergency fund.

Scott Gordon, CEO of the Mastery Charter system in Philadelphia, gives Wolf “a tremendous amount of credit for taking a courageous stand and stepping out of the box” with his overall funding initiative. But Gordon says eliminating charter fund balances is “problematic, because that creates an incentive for poor financial planning.”

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