COMMON DREAMS: Charter Schools Are a Major Dividing Line for the 2020 Democratic Candidates—Education Fights in Pennsylvania Point the Way

Although charter schools are promoted to Pennsylvania families as a free option to look outside their neighborhood public schools, the costs of charters are borne by local school districts—and all the taxpayers who support them. Charter schools now costPennsylvania taxpayers over $1.8 billion annually and account for over 25 percent of the state’s basic education funding.

Pennsylvania’s surging charter school costs are direct causes of rapidly rising property taxes across the state. When public school students transfer to charters, and per-pupil costs “follow the child,” Doubet explains, the bill for that cost comes due at the end of each budget year when local public schools have to make “tuition payments” to compensate charters for students who transferred. These mostly unplanned, unforeseen costs are often enough to tip district budgets into the red. And the only way to pay off the deficits and right the fiscal ship is to raise local property taxes.

“Everywhere you go you hear complaints about the huge burden that local property taxes have become,” Doubet says. “It’s tough for middle- and working-class families to come up with the money when their wages have stagnated for decades. And retirees on fixed incomes are especially hard hit.”

Colleen Kennedy