Chester Upland (Pa.) : State Special Ed Formula Drains Millions from District

Marion Herbert's picture
Tuesday, February 7, 2012

As Delaware County's (Pa.) financially troubled Chester Upland School District struggles to stay afloat, officials there say they are paying millions more than they should on special-education students who attend charter schools.

School districts pay charters to teach their children, using a complicated formula set by state law. About 45 percent of Chester Upland's students attend charters.

Chester Upland's payments are based on the previous year's expense of educating students in its own schools, minus some costs charters do not incur.

For regular-education Chester Upland students this year, that figure is $9,858 per child.

But flaws in the state charter-school law, district officials say, make payments to charter schools for special-education students much higher, costing Chester Upland about $8 million more than is reasonable.

Chester Upland's per-student special-education charter-school payment this year is $24,528, more than twice as much as for regular students and thousands per student more than the state average.

For the 657 Chester Upland special-education students at Chester Community Charter, which has by far the most district students, the district owes about $16.1 million this school year.

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