Note: This is an edited version of the original story. Ed.
Superintendents from five area counties issued a statement Friday condemning the use of public school budgets to fund charter schools and criticized them for not being subject to the same government oversight and mandates as public schools.
"...Using vouchers to fund private schools or to funnel public school dollars away from local schools to fund charter schools is fundamentally wrong and inequitable," the group of 26 superintendents said in the news release. The school districts included Lehigh and Northampton counties.
"Local schools are mandated to play by different rules than charters and private schools and private schools are subjected to far less government oversight and unfunded mandates."
The statement was issued at a time when the House is about to consider Senate Bill 1, which would make it easier for charter schools to open, and remove local school districts' authority to approve them and give it to the state.
The superintendents said cyber charter schools were particularly subjected to inequitable funding.
"We believe that our legislators know the cyber charter school funding formula is defective, yet it remains uncorrected," the statement said.
In an article in The Morning Call, Salisbury Township School District Superintendent Robert Gross cited Vitalistic Therapeutic Charter School of the Lehigh Valley's financial and managerial problems as an example of the lack of oversight.
"We can't expect local school districts to be the local oversight mechanism to go in and review the fiscal operations and the academic operations of each of the charter schools, because that's not our charge," Gross said in the article.
The Salisbury Township School Board will review Thomas Lubben's application to open the Arts Academy Charter School, a performing arts middle school in the district, at a Dec. 12 public hearing. Lubben founded the Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Performing Arts, but retired from there more than a year ago.
The superintendents' report cited data that showed charter schools performed lower on the 2010-11 Pennsylvania Systems of School Assessment tests than their public school counterparts
Public schools, which are required to pay for students in their district who attend charter schools, are losing millions of dollars because the state no longer gives partial reimbursement. Salisbury has lost $500,000, Gross said.
"School choice is not a bad thing," Gross said in the article."What we're saying is let's do it properly and let's not burden the local taxpayer and the local school district."