Monday, Jan. 27, the superintendents from the Huntingdon County school districts attend a press conference in the TUI 11 building at 2527 US-522 in McVeytown along with administrators from at least eight other area school districts between Fulton, Mifflin and Juniata counties.

The press conference, set to begin at 11 a.m., aims to not only outline the negative impacts of charter schools on local districts but to also spread awareness of the need for charter school reform.

“Primarily, the conference aims for each district in attendance to outline the impacts through specific stories,” said James Estep, superintendent of Mifflin County School District, who coordinated the event. “But, more importantly, we want the public to be aware of how much funding is being siphoned away from public schools.”

Charter schools have been an often-debated issue within the state in recent years. Publicly funded yet privately owned, resources given to these facilities have only increased, leading public school districts that fund the tuition of each student who attends a brick-and-mortar or cyber school to struggle.

“The funding formula used by the state to determine tuition rates for charter schools does not reflect the cost of educating that child,” Estep said. “Because of how the law is written, any increases to the cost of special or regular education lead to increased tuition, meaning the more we have to spend. Taxpayers need to be made aware of how much money is going to charter schools and taken away from us.”

Over the course of an estimated 30 minutes, present superintendents and other district representatives will review the negative impacts charter schools have had on their districts.

Following the discussion of impacts, superintendents will present potential solutions that have been previously discussed.

“For the sake of time, we won’t be providing a detailed solution,” Estep said. “We’ll instead bring up potential solutions that have been brought up in the past.”

These potential solutions can be found within the white papers released by the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA), which are available at pasa-net.org/papers.

Aside from superintendents, district business managers, several board members from the districts, members of other organizations that support charter school reform and several community members, including a representative from The Daily News, have been invited to attend the conference.

Members of the public are welcomed and encouraged to attend.

Though Estep coordinated the event, the initial suggestion came from the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools (PARSS) to spread awareness of the issue during National School Choice Week.

“PARSS reached out to its members to spread public awareness on the issue during National School Choice Week, which is set in the last week of January each year,” Estep said. “The event promotes the choices of all the different schooling options, but spreading awareness of an issue that has been hurting public school districts is a very pressing matter.”

Fred Foster, the superintendent of Huntingdon Area School District, who coordinated districts within Huntingdon County for the event, believes the impacts stated by superintendents and other district representatives will likely not differ from one another.

“Outlining the impacts is an individual effort for each superintendent, I would be surprised if our statements differ greatly from one another,” Foster said.

Joshua can be reached at jblattenberger@huntingdondailynews.com.

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