Message Regarding the SASD Budget, April 26, 2018

This is the time of year when the school board and administration work to develop a budget for the upcoming school year.    In Souderton Area School District, we continue to strive to lead the organization in an efficient manner while maintaining and growing programs for students.   In the past five years, we have maintained historically low tax increases (below 1%), saving the average homeowner in Souderton Area over $400.  Our ability to keep tax increases at those low levels is coming to an end, however, due to an unnecessary, unfunded state mandate – charter school tuition.

We continue to find efficiencies in how we run our organization, but the increase in charter school tuition is now overshadowing this hard work.  What is perhaps most frustrating to us as school leaders is the lack of control we have over this large expenditure.  We have no say on who enrolls in charter schools and must pay tuition rates that are established by the state.  Although charter schools exist across the state, Souderton Area is unique for being the only school district in Montgomery County with a bricks and mortar charter school within its boundaries – the Souderton Charter School Collaborative.

Charter school tuition has a significant financial impact on our school district.  There are currently 256 Souderton Area resident students enrolled in charter schools.  Over the last five years, the total tuition paid to charter schools has increased from $2.9 million to a projected $4.0 million.  The tuition for most of these students is $12,527 per year, but if the student has an Individualized Education Plan (which means that the student requires special services to effectively learn), that tuition almost triples to $31,916 per year.

The school district has consistently determined that if there were no charter schools and students instead attended their “neighborhood” schools, it would save the district about $3.8 million per year, which is equal to an almost 5% real estate tax rate reduction.  Even though we are seeking a collective solution with the leadership of the Souderton Charter School Collaborative to help reduce costs and lead the way in charter funding reform, the state legislation will continue to overshadow the positive work being done here in Souderton Area.

The bottom line is this – traditional public education remains under attack, and in the coming weeks we will be reaching out to community members for help in advocacy for our students.  Charter schools are siphoning more than $4 million per year from the school district’s operating budget.  Our ability to govern is now severely compromised by the state-mandated increases in tuition rates for charter schools.  We are gravely concerned that this will impact our services and superior programs.  This school district is educationally ranked in the top 10% nationally, with awards and recognition for services, programs, achievements and superior budgeting at both the state and federal levels.

Please join us in our advocacy for a fair charter school funding formula by contacting your legislators to tell them to (1) reform the flawed charter school tuition funding formula and (2) hold charter schools to the same standards of accountability as traditional public school districts like ours.  Below is the contact information for your local legislators.

MARCY TOEPEL - REPUBLICAN - DISTRICT 147

Capitol Office

District Office

405 Irvis Office Building

P O Box 202147

Harrisburg, PA 17120-2147

Ph: (717) 787-9501

Fax: (717) 787-8215

1885 Swamp Pike

Suite 107

Gilbertsville, PA 19525-9666

Ph: (610) 323-3299

Fax: (610) 323-3289

mtoepel@pahousegop.com

ROBERT W. GODSHALL - REPUBLICAN - DISTRICT 53

Capitol Office

District Office

150 Main Capitol Building

PO Box 202053

Harrisburg, PA 17120-2053

Ph: (717) 783-6428

Fax: (717) 787-7424

1702 Cowpath Road

Hatfield, PA 19440

Ph: (215) 368-3500

Fax: (215) 361-4220

rgodshal@pahousegop.com

SENATOR BOB MENSCH - REPUBLICAN - DISTRICT 24

Capitol Office

District Office

459 Main Capitol Building

Senate Box 203024

Harrisburg, PA 17120-3024

Ph: (717) 787-3110

Fax: (717) 787-8004

56 West Fourth Street

Floor 2

Red Hill, PA 18076

Ph: (215) 541-2388

Fax: (215) 541-2387

bmensch@pasen.gov

twitter.com/SenatorMensch

FACEBOOK: Senator Bob Mensch

SENATOR STEWART GREENLEAF - REPUBLICAN - DISTRICT 12

Capitol Office

District Office

19 East Wing

Senate Box 203012

Harrisburg, PA 17120-3012

Ph: (717) 787-6599

711 York Road

Willow Grove, PA 19090

Ph: (215) 657-7700

Fax: (215) 657-1885

sgreenleaf@pasen.gov

twitter.com/SenGreenleaf

FACEBOOK: Senator Stewart J. Greenleaf