Apollo-Ridge school board approves resolution calling on lawmakers to reform state's cyber charter school funding

Brian C. Rittmeyer
| Tuesday, March 26, 2013, 12:06 a.m.

Payments to cyber charter schools are making a “big hit” on the Apollo-Ridge School District's budget, Superintendent Matt Curci says.

To address that, the school board Monday approved a resolution calling on lawmakers to reform the state's cyber charter school funding formula.

The resolution, put forth by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, notes that districts are required to pay cyber charter schools based on the district's cost to educate the student and not on cyber charters' actual costs.

Districts also are required to pay cyber charters for pension costs. The state reimburses charter schools for half of their pension costs, allowing cyber charters to get payment for the same costs twice, the resolution states. The pension “double dip” is costing taxpayers an additional $50 million each year.

The resolution states that the state Auditor General, in 2010 and in 2012, recommended amending charter school law so that payments are “based on the actual cost of educating students, including special education students, at the charter school.”

For the 2012-13 school year, Apollo-Ridge is expecting to spend about $432,000 on cyber charter schools for 39 students. Curci called that a “tremendous” cost for a district with a budget of about $20 million.

While down slightly from the roughly $450,000 spent in 2008-09, the district's share then was only about $276,000 after state reimbursement. The state has not reimbursed Apollo-Ridge since the 2010-11 school year, according to the resolution.

In the past five years, the number of Apollo-Ridge students attending cyber charters dropped from 59 in 2008-09 to a low of 36 in 2011-12, rising slightly to 39 in 2012-13.

Curci attributed the decline in part to the district opening its own cyber school, the Apollo-Ridge Virtual Learning Academy.

In other business

• Access to the district's community fitness trail and track will be restricted when school resumes after the Easter break.

For security reasons, the district will not allow public use of the trail and track while school is in session, Curci said.

• The district has set graduation for June 7, which will also be the last day of school for students.

• The district has two extra weeks to notify employees of furloughs under an agreement the school board approved with the Apollo-Ridge Education Association.

The deadline for such notifications had been April 1, the same date employees are required to notify the district of their intent to retire. The district asked for the extension to April 15 because those retirements could affect the need to furlough, district Solicitor Matt Hoffman said.

The board approved the retirement resignations of four employees — Jan French, first grade; Gloria Notte, second grade; Sandy Curci, literacy specialist; and Carol Leonard, speech and language therapist. They all are effective June 11.

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4701 or brittmeyer@tribweb.com.

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