District Admits Breaking Charter Funding Law

You don’t often see a public official admit willfully and repeatedly breaking the law. Yet that’s what Pottsville Superintendent Jeffrey Zwiebel brazenly did in the Philadelphia Inquirer last week by admitting his district withholds funding for charter students.

The law is clear: “This amount shall be paid by the district of residence of each student. … Payments shall be made to the charter school in twelve (12) equal monthly payments, by the fifth day of each month, within the operating school year.”

Despite this clarity, Zwiebel felt no compunction about acknowledging not paying: “We just let the state take it out of our subsidy … If the state ordered us, ‘You must pay them every month,’ we would do it.” But that is exactly what the state has already done. It makes you wonder what other laws Zwiebel believes aren’t worth following.

Zwiebel and other superintendents likely feel emboldened to treat charter students like they’re second-class, given Gov. Wolf’s plan to charge charter schools a fee when derelict districts won’t pay. It’s akin to demanding a fee from moms before helping them get child support from deadbeat dads. It’s unconscionable. A better plan would be a “loser pays” system, which charges a fee to whichever entity is in the wrong.


*A condensed version of this appeared as a letter to the editor in the print edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer on September 11, 2019.