I have to hand it to the newspapers in Pittsburgh.
They are really doing some excellent reporting on the difference between the two kinds of public schools in Pennsylvania -- the kind you and I attended and charter schools.
This first came to my intention through daily e-mails I must have signed up for somewhere along the way. They come from Lawrence Feinberg on behalf of the Keystone State Education Coalition and are a round-up of the day's coverage of education issues in Pennsylvania.
Their links are archived here.
first article that caught my eye was in the July 13 edition of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and was coverage of a really dry subject that adds up to big public dollars.
Here are the first two paragraphs:
"Pennsylvania charter schools are reaping a multimillion-dollar, taxpayer-funded bonus on pension reimbursements at the expense of public school districts, a coalition of school groups contends.
Public schools and charter schools alike both pay 50 percent of their state-sponsored pension costs, and the state pays the other 50 percent.The associations, representing urban and rural schools, school boards, business managers and administrators, say the state’s calculation for the tuition that districts must pay for charter school students requires them to pay double the amount they should for employee pensions."
"But in addition, school districts must include the state and the local pension payments in their calculations for charter school tuition, a formula that theoretically provides charter schools with 150 percent of pension costs," reporter Debra Erdley wrote.
This is just one way that obscure funding formulas and non-existent oversight make for a skewed playing field in the "competition" between traditional public schools and charters -- particularly cyber-charter schools which receive the same "per student" tuition from school districts as regular charters which, like public schools, have buildings, heat, electricity, water and sewer and, usually, higher personnel costs to cover.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has been doing some digging as well.
In addition to detailed coverage of the FBI investigation into entities with ties to Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School, the state's largest cyber charter operation, reporter Eleanor Chute filed this Aug. 12 objective report about the different rules that govern the two types of public schools.
The most recent and most blatant of these is the latest state requirement that student performance make up at least one-half the measurement for evaluating teacher performance.
That requirement, however, does not apply to charter schools where, by what I'm sure is pure coincidence, most teachers are not unionized.
"Everybody likes to talk about competition. Competition really means playing by the same rules," Mr. Weiss said.
That's what the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette did.
Have look below and you'll see what they did -- if you can follow it.