The method of charter school funding would be re-examined if a proposal by the Senate Education Committee is adopted.

It's one of several possible changes in charter schools the committee wants to examine.

Increased charter school accountability and creating a charter school division in the Department of Education were also part of the proposal, introduced in December.

"We've never had a serious, objective discussion about how we should fund cyber charter schools and charter schools," said state Sen. Jeffrey Piccola, who chairs the committee and represents a northern portion of York County. "We have to get people together who don't have axes to grind."

Charter schools are independently operated, but are funded primarily by a per-student tuition payment made by the school district the student would otherwise attend. The chartering district is the district that approves a charter application to set up the school.

The York City School District estimates it will pay about $10 million in charter school tuition this school year to its four brick-and-mortar charter schools, plus the cyber charter schools. That number includes partial reimbursement from the state.

District officials have said the funding formula doesn't adequately cover the costs of sending students to charters.

On the other side, Oscar Rossum Sr.


, board president for Lincoln Elementary and Helen Thackston charter schools in the city, said the tuition payments don't cover the cost of educating students.

The cyber issue: Cyber schools in particular have caused disdain by school districts.

Districts pay a different tuition rate, based on factors such as wealth, even though the student attends an online school.

That means that York Suburban would pay more to send a child to an online school than York City would, for example.

Piccola said he doesn't see "any particular flaws" with funding, but acknowledges there could be changes in how a district's share is calculated. The method of charter funding would be re-examined by a funding advisory committee.

Inspiration: Piccola said the York City School Board unknowingly inspired him, in part, to take a look at charter school law.

Piccola had spent a March day discussing charter schools at an education committee hearing held at Lincoln Elementary. At one point, he heard what he felt was a disturbing comment from the lawyer representing Edison Learning, which runs Lincoln.

Attorney Daniel Fennick told the committee members they had spent more time in Lincoln in that one day "than any member of the school board had spent in the past five years," Piccola said.

"(York City School Board members) hadn't overseen the charter perhaps the way they should," he added.

Piccola thinks his committee's proposal would give the necessary, mandated oversight by administrators of the district that approves the charter school's creation. An Office of Charter and Cyber Charter Schools division would be created in the Department of Education, as no direct office has overseen charter schools.

"There is not enough oversight after a charter school is chartered," Piccola said.

Charters are renewed every five years, the only time a chartering district is required to check on how the school is doing. York City School Board has held annual updates with its charters.

Districts are supposed to have a working relationship with charters to check on performance, but Piccola thinks that rarely happens.

-- Reach Andrew Shaw at 505-5431, ashaw@yorkdis or ydblogwork.