I don’t begin to understand the complexities of Pennsylvania’s formula for allocating dollars to public schools and charter schools, but this article explains how the formula cripples public schools.

Chester Upland School District keeps raising taxes to overcome its deficit but it can’t keep up.

Chester Upland spends about $16,000 a year on average for each special ed student in its traditional district schools. But the state’s formula has forced it to pay more than $40,000 per student to charters, regardless of the child’s level of disability.

Those payments crippled Chester Upland so badly that Gov. Tom Wolf and the courts stepped in.

But this is far from just an issue in Chester Upland. Newly analyzed state data show that a combination of quirks in the charter law have caused a statewide problem, because charters across Pennsylvania are enrolling a greater share of the least needy, least costly special ed students.

The special ed funding formula’s intricacies are infamous. But the problem in a nutshell is this: when the neediest students concentrate in district schools, that drives up the per-pupil payments that districts must pay charters.

It’s a paradox that can drain the budgets of traditional school districts while infusing charters with cash. And it creates incentives for districts like Chester Upland to do what they can to keep special ed students from migrating to charters and cyber-charters.