Funding Disputes under PA's Charter School Law

Wow.  Today's PA Commonwealth Court decision limits charter schools ability to pursue tuition payment when a school district does not voluntarily pay.  The charter school law allows a charter school to seek payment of the unpaid tuition from the PA Secretary of Education through withholding the upaid amount from the district's subsidy. 

Today's decision reiterated a prior decision that the administrative hearing process in the charter school law had to be followed (and lays out that process).  It then goes on, however, to say that the only money available to withhold is from the subsidy money from the same year as the tuition which should have been paid by the district.  Thus, if a district failed to pay in 2009, but the 2009 subsidy has already been paid in full to the district and the district has spent, then there is nothing left for the Secretary to withhold for the charter school's tuition.

What does this mean for the Chester Community Charter School?  It means that it will not be paid $7,490,171.75 that it says it was owed.  As I said, "wow."

The case, Chester Community Charter School v. Commonwealth of PA, et al., 135 M.D. 2009 can be found here.

Pa's Office of Open Records and Hearings

When choosing to schedule a hearing, PA's Office of Open Records puts a notice in the PA Bulletin.  Because of that, it is easy to see that since the law has been in effect there are only two cases where such hearings have been scheduled.  The first one was related to the office of the Governor.  According to the most recent PA Bulletin, the more recent case is the Matter of James Eiseman, Jr. v. Department of Public Welfare that will be heard on May 21, 22 and 23.  This is the second time the case has been scheduled, so who really knows if it will take place when they say.

I really know nothing about the case except what the notice says, but even that is intriguing.  It appears that for only the second matter in which the OOR has agreed to hold a hearing, the question is whether the Department of Public Welfare can protect particular information as a "trade secret or proprietary confidential information."  With the OOR's general bias, I would expect that the answer will be "no" or so limited as to make little difference to eveyone else, but who really knows.

Depending on what the information might be and how it is characterized, the ruling could have wide implications whichever way the OOR rules.