The state House last month sent the Senate a bill overhauling the way Pennsylvania funds cyber charter schools.

It's long overdue.

Districts and taxpayers for years have complained about cyber charters double dipping when it comes to teacher pensions.

Current law allows charters to collect 100 percent of the pension costs from school districts, in the form of the state subsidies that follow students when they enroll in a charter.

At the same time, the state reimburses charters for 50 percent of the retirement costs.

It never made sense, although it's a heck of a deal with charter schools -- at the expense of local taxpayers.

That glaring loophole is finally addressed in the House bill, which passed 133-62 and had the support of the entire York County House delegation, by eliminating the districts' pension contributions.

State Rep. Keith Gillespie, R-Hellam Township, said school districts and taxpayers stand to save more than $84 million by the end of the 2014-15 school year if the Senate approves the bill and it's signed into law.

The legislation also adds greater accountability for charter schools, such as establishing ethics standards for school officials and putting the charters under same sunshine law requirements as other public institutions.

To be sure, this is not a perfect bill, and perhaps the Senate can improve it.


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However, state Sen. Lloyd Smucker, a Lancaster County Republican who has introduced his own charter school reform bill, said his and the House version are very similar.

If the House bill does become law, as Smucker suggests could happen, it includes a provision that would ensure the state continues to work on the problem -- the creation of a commission charged with making long-term funding recommendations for charter schools by the end of March.

Hopefully, the commission would address the main issue highlighted several times by former state Auditor General Jack Wagner: The current, flawed funding formula requires some districts to pay charter schools more than it costs the charters to educate the students.

State law now requires a school district to pay a charter school a per-pupil tuition based on the district's cost to educate that student -- not what it actually costs the charter school.

It ignores the fact school districts have costs not shared by charter schools -- particularly cyber charters.

A new formula should be based on a charter school's actual costs.

And taxpayers shouldn't be asked to pay a dime more.