ARGUED: May 11, 2016
from the Order of the Commonwealth Court dated July 8, 2015,
at No. 2052 CD 2014 Affirming the Order of the Pennsylvania
Department of Education dated October 23, 2014 at No.
SAYLOR, C.J., BAER, TODD, DONOHUE, DOUGHERTY, WECHT, JJ.
OPINION ANNOUNCING THE JUDGMENT OF THE COURT
discretionary appeal, we are asked to determine whether,
pursuant to section 8327(b)(2) of the Public School
Employees' Retirement Code, 24 Pa.C.S.A. §
8327(b)(2), the school district that originally approved the
creation of a charter school is financially responsible,
after the revocation of the charter, for the charter
school's prior failure to make payments to its
employees' retirement fund. This question hinges upon
whether unpaid retirement contributions constitute an
outstanding obligation of a closed charter school. We
conclude that the deficiency resulting from the failure to
make the payments is an outstanding financial obligation of a
closed charter school and therefore, pursuant to section
17-1729-A(i) of the Charter School Law, 24 P.S. §
17-1729-A(i), the school district cannot be held liable for
the amounts owed.
charter school is "an independent public school
established and operated under a charter" that is
authorized by the school board of the school district in
which the charter school is located. 24 P.S. §
17-1703-A. Charter schools are governed by the Charter School
Law, 24 P.S. §§ 17-1701-A - 17-1751-A, which the
General Assembly added in 1997 to the Public School Code of
1949. See S.B. 123, Act 1997-22, Reg. Sess. (Pa.
the employees of a traditional public school, all charter
school employees must be enrolled as members in the Public
School Employees' Retirement System ("PSERS")
unless they are enrolled in another retirement program. 24
P.S. § 17-1724-A(c); see also 24 Pa.C.S.A.
§ 8301(a). PSERS is a defined benefit pension plan that
is funded by three sources: (1) member contributions; (2)
employer contributions; and (3) investment returns. The
Commonwealth and the school district are each responsible for
paying a portion of the employer contribution. See
24 Pa.C.S.A. § 8328(a) (explaining the employer
contribution rate). The Commonwealth pays the school district
directly an amount equal to at least fifty percent of the
employer contribution. 24 Pa.C.S.A. § 8535(2)-(3). The
Commonwealth provides this payment to the school district on
a quarterly basis. 24 Pa.C.S.A. § 8535(3). The school
district generally then has five days from the receipt of the
money from the Commonwealth to make the full payment due to
PSERS. Id. The school district must send PSERS 100
percent of the employer contribution and the member
contributions, the latter of which are collected by the
school district and submitted on its employees' behalf.
24 Pa.C.S.A. §§ 8327(a), 8506(c), 8535(3).
charter school receives its funding, on a monthly basis, from
the school districts that encompass the residence of each
child that attends the charter school. 24 P.S. §
17-1725-A(a)(2), (3), (5). The amount required for the
charter school's employer contribution to PSERS is
included in the monthly payments sent to the charter school
by the school districts. See 24 P.S. §
17-1725-A(a)(2), (3). A charter school, however, remits its
own payments to PSERS, as it is considered to be a
"school district" for this purpose. 24 P.S.
§ 17-1724-A(c). If a charter school fails to make the
requisite PSERS payments, section 8327(b)(2) sets forth a
mechanism "to facilitate the payments of amounts
due" to PSERS, instructing that
the Secretary of Education and the State Treasurer shall
cause to be deducted and paid into the fund from any funds
appropriated to the Department of Education for basic
education of the chartering school district of a charter
school and public school employees' retirement
contributions amounts equal to the employer and pickup
contributions which a charter school is required to pay to
the fund, as certified by the [PSERS] board, and as remains
unpaid on the date such appropriations would otherwise be
paid to the chartering school district or charter school.
24 Pa.C.S.A. § 8327(b)(2). Thus, pursuant to section
8327(b)(2), upon receiving notification from PSERS that a
charter school failed to make the required PSERS payments,
the Department of Education (the "DOE") withholds
money from the chartering school district's basic
education subsidy to cover the charter school's PSERS
deficiency (for the employer and/or member contributions).
See id. Any deduction from the chartering school
district's basic education subsidy used to cover the
charter school's failure to make PSERS payments, however,
"shall be deducted from the amount due to the charter
school" from the chartering school district.
1714-A of the Charter School Law sets forth a non-exhaustive
list of a charter school's powers. See 24 P.S.
§ 17-1714-A(a), (b). Neither the Commonwealth nor any
school district is responsible for debts incurred by a
charter school in its exercise of any of the specified
powers. 24 P.S. § 17-1714-A(c). The chartering school
district is, however, responsible for annually assessing the
charter school's performance to ensure it is
"meeting the goals of its charter[.]" 24 P.S.
§ 17-1728-A(a). To facilitate this assessment, the
charter school is required to submit an annual report to the
school board of the chartering district, and the school board
is further provided "ongoing access to the records and
facilities of the charter school to ensure that the charter
school is in compliance with its charter and this act and
that requirements for testing, civil rights and student
health and safety are being met." 24 P.S. §
17-1728-A(a), (b). A comprehensive review is conducted prior
to the school board granting a five-year renewal of the
charter. 24 P.S. § 17-1728-A(c).
charter may be revoked or not renewed for a variety of
reasons. See 24 P.S. § 17-1729-A(a). The
revocation, termination or non-renewal of the charter results
in the dissolution of the charter school. 24 P.S. §
17-1729-A(i). Following dissolution, the charter school's
liabilities and obligations are settled, and any assets that
remain are divided and given proportionally to the school
entities that had students enrolled in the
charter school in the year immediately preceding its closure.
Id. Under no circumstances, however, do its
"outstanding liabilities and obligations, " fall
upon either a school district or the Commonwealth.
Id. ("In no event shall such
school entities or the Commonwealth be liable for any
outstanding liabilities or obligations of the charter
school.") (emphasis added).
this legislative backdrop, we turn to the uncontested facts
of this case. In 2003, Pocono Mountain School District (the
"School District") granted a three-year charter for
the creation of Pocono Mountain Charter School (the
"Charter School"). In 2006, the School District
renewed the charter for an additional five years. In 2008,
the School District initiated revocation proceedings,
delineating twenty-seven reasons for revoking the charter.
The school board held a number of public hearings over the
course of two years, primarily focused on concerns of
financial improprieties by the Charter School's Chief
Executive Officer, Dennis Bloom, and "religious
entanglement" between the Charter School and the Shawnee
Tabernacle Church, of which Bloom was the founder and senior
pastor. Pocono Mountain Charter Sch., Inc. v. Pocono
Mountain Sch. Dist., 88 A.3d 275, 279 (Pa. Commw.
2014). Following a series of appeals, the
Charter School Appeal Board ultimately affirmed the School
District's decision to revoke the Charter School's
charter, effective June 21, 2014.
August 28, 2014, the DOE deducted $87, 700.32 from the School
District's basic education subsidy for the 2014-2015
school year. The DOE made this deduction, without prior
notice to the School District, because of the Charter
School's failure to make the mandatory payments to PSERS
during the 2013-2014 school year.
School District appealed this deduction to the head of the
DOE. See 1 Pa. Code § 35.20. The agency head
found that the School District was not entitled to a hearing
on this matter, as the deduction was a mandatory, ministerial
act conducted pursuant to section 8327(b)(2).
School District disputed that it was the Charter School's
chartering school district on the date the DOE made the
deduction from its basic education subsidy (August 28, 2014)
because, as of that date, the Charter School was no longer in
existence. The agency head found, however, that the relevant
time was not when the DOE made the deduction, but when the
deficiency arose, and there was no question that the School
District was the chartering school district at the time the
Charter School failed to make the contribution to PSERS. As
it was uncontested that the Charter School was required to
make payments to PSERS for the 2013-2014 school year,
see 24 P.S. § 17-1724-A(c), the agency head
concluded that the DOE did not exercise any discretion in
making the deduction. As such, the School District was not
entitled to a hearing on the propriety of the deduction, and
the agency head granted the DOE's motion to dismiss the
School District's appeal. Agency Head Opinion and Order,
10/23/2014, at 2-3 (citing Fricchione v. Dep't of
Educ., 287 A.2d 442, 443 (Pa. Commw. 1972), for the
proposition that "an exercise of discretion would appear
to be the starting point in determining whether an
agency's adjudication is an adjudication"); see
also 2 Pa.C.S.A. § 504 (requiring "reasonable
notice of a hearing and an opportunity to be heard" only
for an "adjudication of a Commonwealth
agency") (emphasis added).
School District filed a petition for review, and a
three-judge panel of the Commonwealth Court affirmed in an
unpublished opinion. The court recognized that the action
by the DOE is only ministerial, and thus nonadjudicative,
"as long as it is undisputed that a school district is
the proper entity from which funds are to be deducted and
that amount is not in dispute." Pocono Mountain Sch.
Dist. v. Pa. Dep't of Educ., 2052 C.D. 2014, 2015 WL
5457139, at *2 (Pa. Commw. July 8, 2015) (unpublished
memorandum) (citing Council of Phila. v. Street, 856
A.2d 893, 896 (Pa. Commw. 2004) (defining a ministerial act
as "one which a public officer is required to perform
upon a given state of facts in a prescribed manner in
obedience to the mandate of legal authority and without
regard to his own judgment or opinion concerning the
propriety or impropriety of the act to be performed")
and Flinn v. Pittenger, 338 A.2d 735, 757 (Pa.
Commw. 1975) (stating that a ministerial act is
"nonadjudicative and not subject to judicial
the agency head, the Commonwealth Court found that because it
was undisputed that the School District was the chartering
school district during the 2013-2014 school year (when the
Charter School failed to satisfy its obligation to make
retirement contributions to PSERS), section 8327(b)(2)
mandated that the DOE deduct the amount of the deficiency
from the School District's basic education subsidy.
Id. at *3. Notably, the Commonwealth Court stated
that the timing of the deduction was of no moment because
"[n]owhere in the language of [s]ection 8327(b)(2) does
it explicitly or implicitly indicate that a chartering school
district is cleared from having to pay a deficient payment if
the charter school ceases to operate as one."
Id. The Commonwealth Court therefore concluded as a
matter of law that "[a]lthough the deduction was taken
after the Charter School's charter was revoked, the
School District was the chartering school district during the
period in which the deficiency arose and, thus, it is on the
hook for the amount of the deficiency." Id.
granted allowance of appeal to determine whether the
Commonwealth Court's decision makes the School District
responsible for the Charter School's liabilities, in
violation of the Charter School Law. See Pocono Mountain
Sch. Dist. v. Pa. Dep't of Educ., Div. of Subsidy Data
& Admin., 127 A.3d 1289 (Pa. 2015) (per curiam).
This question requires that we interpret several statutory
provisions. Therefore, our standard of review in this matter
is de novo and our scope of review is plenary. Cent.
Westmoreland Career & Tech. Ctr. Educ. Ass'n,
PSEA/NEA v. Penn-Trafford Sch. Dist., 131 A.3d 971, 976
crux of the School District's argument (and that of its
amicus, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association
("PSBA")) is that section 8327(b)(2) cannot be
interpreted to permit the deduction of money from its basic
education subsidy to cover the Charter School's PSERS
delinquency for the 2013-2014 school year because the Charter
School was closed at the time the DOE made the deduction.
According to the School District, the Commonwealth Court
ignored the plain language of section 8327(b)(2), which
states its purpose as allowing for the "exchange of
credits" between the employer and the Commonwealth, and
the last sentence of the statute, which is a "mandatory
pass through provision" that can only be effectuated if
the charter school is still in operation at the time the DOE
deducts the charter school's unpaid PSERS contributions
from a school district's funding. School District's
Brief at 12-13; 24 Pa.C.S.A. § 8327(b)(2); see
also PSBA's Brief at 5, 11-12 (referring to section
8327(b)(2) as "a subsidy intercept" that is
permitted "only if and to the extent that there are
amounts due to be paid from the chartering school district to
the charter schools against which the intercepted subsidy
amounts can be offset") (emphasis omitted).
School District further contends that withholding payments
from its basic education subsidy to fund a closed charter
school's delinquent PSERS payments is proscribed by
several provisions of the Charter School Law, which clearly
and unambiguously indicate that a school district is not
financially responsible for a charter school's debts,
liabilities and obligations. School District's Brief at
10-12 (citing 24 P.S. §§ 17-1714-A(c),
17-1724-A(c), 17-1729-A(i)); see also PSBA's
Brief at 7-8. The School District asserts that section
8327(b)(2) and the cited sections of the Charter School Law
are in pari materia and must be read as one statute, because
together, they all "address the operations of charter
schools." School District's Brief at 14. In the
alternative, the School District states that sections
1714-A(c) and 1729-A(i) of the Charter School Law, which
expressly preclude a school district from being responsible
for a charter school's debts and liabilities, are more
specific and were enacted after section 8327(b)(2),
and are therefore controlling. Id. at 15-16 (citing
1 Pa.C.S.A. § 1933); School District's Reply Brief
at 6-7; see also PSBA's Brief at 11. Thus, the
School District and its amicus maintain that section
8327(b)(2) only permits the DOE to withhold money from a
school district to cover a charter school's PSERS
delinquencies in amounts that can be recouped by the school
district through its own withholding of payments from the
charter school. School District's Brief at 18; PSBA's
Brief at 11-12.
DOE, on the other hand, contends that the Commonwealth
Court's decision is fully supported by applicable law and
the rules of statutory construction. The DOE and its
amicus, the PSERS Board, argue that the provisions cited to
by the School District and the PSBA are inapplicable and
irrelevant, as section 8327(b)(2) sets forth a payment
mechanism for PSERS, not a means for recovering a debt or
liability. DOE's Brief at 17-18, 20-21, 23, 26, 27; PSERS
Board's Brief at 9-15. According to the DOE, section
1714-A(c) only precludes school districts or the Commonwealth
from being responsible for a charter school's debt
incurred as a result of a charter school exercising the
powers enumerated in that section. DOE's Brief at 19;
see supra, note 3. As contributing to PSERS is not a
power specified in section 1714-A, the DOE asserts that
section 1714-A(c) has no bearing on this case. DOE's
Brief at 19-20; PSERS Board's Brief at 12-13.
1729-A(i), the DOE argues, applies only to "the
contractual liabilities that may exist at the time of
closure, " and is likewise inapposite to the
circumstances in question. DOE's Brief at 21.
Alternatively, the DOE states that while 1729-A(i) generally
prohibits a school district from being responsible for a
closed charter school's liabilities and obligations,
section 8327(b)(2) sets forth a specific exception, making a
school district financially responsible if a charter school,
now closed, has failed to make its PSERS contributions.
Id. at 22, 27-29.
to the DOE, because sections 1714-A(c) and 1729-A(i) also
absolve the Commonwealth from being responsible for a charter
school's debts and liabilities, the School District's
interpretation of section 8327(b)(2) would lead to the
invalidation of another provision of the Retirement Code,
section 8531. As a result, the DOE continues, "the
Commonwealth would no longer be the guarantor for the
unfunded benefits of a closed charter school's
employees[, ] resulting in the rescission of the credited
service earned." Id. at 23-24; see 24
Pa.C.S.A. § 8531. In other words, the DOE contends that
employees of the charter school will not be credited for
retirement benefits for the period of the charter
states that its interpretation of the statutory provisions in
question effectuates the intent of the General Assembly in
enacting section 8327(b)(2), which was to protect the charter
school's employees by providing PSERS with a way to
ensure that the employees will not lose credited service.
DOE's Brief at 25. The DOE argues that the provisions of
the Charter School Law relied upon by the School District and
its amicus should not be interpreted as invalidating or
nullifying that objective or the operability of the statute.
Id. at 25, 28-30.
the DOE disputes that section 8327(b)(2)
requires that a school district be able to
recover from the charter school the amount deducted for the
charter school's PSERS delinquency. The recoupment
provision is not stated as a prerequisite to the DOE's
obligation to withdraw the funds from the school
district's basic education subsidy. Id. at 31-32
& n.11. Additionally, in some circumstances, students
from several school districts attend a single charter school.
The DOE points out that every school district that has
students attending the charter school must provide funding to
the charter school (which, inter alia, includes money for the
charter school's employer contribution to PSERS).
Nonetheless, section 8327(b)(2) requires only the
chartering school district to cover the
charter school's delinquent PSERS contributions and,
depending on the number of the chartering school
district's students attending the charter school, this
amount may not be recoverable by withholding the monthly
payments that it must make to the charter school. Thus,
according to the DOE, the contention of the School District
and PSBA that section 8327(b)(2) operates solely as a
"pass through" is unsupportable. Id. at
32-34. The DOE asserts that its interpretation of section
8327(b)(2) is just, as the School District is in the best
position to oversee the financial dealings of the Charter
School and is able to ensure payments to PSERS are timely
made. Id. at 18 n.3, 25.
begin by addressing the last contention raised by the DOE
regarding the School District's supervisory role, which
position Justice Dougherty adopts in his Dissent.
See Dissenting Op. (Dougherty, J.) at 4-5. In
Justice Dougherty's view, the School District
"failed in its supervisory duties" by not ensuring
that the Charter School made its PSERS payments during the
2013-2014 academic year. Id. at 5. Generally
speaking, a chartering school district is able to access the
charter school's records "to ensure that the charter
school is in compliance with its charter and this act."
24 P.S. § 17-1728-A(a). In this case, the School
District fulfilled this obligation and reacted to its
findings, as evidenced by its petition to revoke the Charter
School's charter in 2008.
the Monroe County Court of Common Pleas appointed a custodian
(assisted by a forensic auditor and educational
professionals) to oversee the Charter School's operations
in April 2013. Pocono Mountain Charter Sch., Inc.,
88 A.3d at 279; Pocono Mountain Charter Sch., Inc. v.
Pocono Mountain Sch. Dist., 2013 Pa.Commw. Unpub. LEXIS
775, at 7 (Pa. Commw. Aug. 13, 2013); see also Bansa v.
Boxley, 9280 CV 2012 (C.P. Monroe, Apr. 19, 2013). This
occurred in the midst of the School District's ongoing
attempt to revoke the Charter School's charter. The
custodian was given authority over the Charter School's
finances, which he was, in part, appointed to stabilize. He
was required to report to the court on his progress monthly.
Pocono Mountain Charter Sch., Inc., 88 A.3d at 279;
Pocono Mountain Charter Sch., Inc. 2013 Pa.Commw.
Unpub. LEXIS 775, at 7. In the memorandum decision granting
the Charter School's request for a stay pending the
outcome of its appeal of the CAB's revocation of its
charter, Judge Robert Simpson relied, inter alia, upon the
appointment of the custodian, finding that this
"mitigates the alleged threat to public interest in
permitting the Charter School to operate in the 2013-2014
academic year because the court [of common pleas] ensures the
current public funds are spent appropriately."
Pocono Mountain Charter Sch., Inc. 2013 Pa.Commw.
Unpub. LEXIS 775, at 7-8. Nonetheless, it was while the
Charter School was under the custodian's supervision and
control, monitored by the Monroe County Court of Common
Pleas, that the Charter School failed to make its PSERS
payments. We therefore respectfully disagree with the DOE and
Justice Dougherty that the failure to discover the Charter
School's PSERS delinquencies was the result of any lack
of diligence by the School District.
Dougherty seemingly imposes an additional duty upon a
chartering school district that was never contemplated under
the law. He fails to explain what the School District could
have done if it had known that the Charter School failed to
make its PSERS payments. Our research reveals no provision,
in the Charter School Law or otherwise, that permits a
chartering school district to prospectively withhold payments
to a charter school based upon its own investigation of a
charter school's financial improprieties. The School
District's relief from the consequences of a financially
irresponsible Charter School is to seek revocation of the
charter. See 24 P.S. § 17-1729-A(a)(3)
(permitting a chartering school district to revoke or refuse
to renew a charter based upon fiscal mismanagement by the
charter school). This was the remedy sought by the School
District in 2008. Justice Dougherty seems to suggest that the
School District could have avoided the lengthy legal
proceedings involved with revoking the charter because the
School District simply could have withheld payments from the
Charter School. The Charter School Law does not allow a
school district to starve a charter school out of existence.
decision in this case rests upon our interpretation of the
interplay between two statutes -- section 8327(b)(2) of the
Public School Employees' Retirement Code and section
1729-A(i) of the Charter School Law. When interpreting
a statute, the object is to "ascertain and
effectuate" the intent of the legislature. 1 Pa.C.S.A.
§ 1921(a). When possible, we must give effect to every
provision of a statute, as "the legislature 'is
presumed not to intend any statutory language to exist as
mere surplusage.'" Id.; Commonwealth v.
Chester, 101 A.3d 56, 63 (Pa. 2014) (quoting
Commonwealth v. Ostrosky, 909 A.2d 1224, 1232 (Pa.
2006)). If the language of a statute is clear and
unambiguous, "the letter of it is not to be disregarded
under the pretext of pursuing its spirit." 1 Pa.C.S.A.
§ 1921(b). "Words and phrases shall be construed
according to the rules of grammar and according to their
common and approved usage[.]" 1 Pa.C.S.A. §
or parts of statutes that are in pari materia, meaning
"they relate to the same person or things or to the same
class of persons or things, " are to be construed
together, if possible, as one statute. 1 Pa.C.S.A. §
1932. Conflicting provisions must be construed, if possible,
to give effect to both provisions. 1 Pa.C.S.A. § 1933.
If the conflict is irreconcilable, we construe the more
specific or "special" provision "as an
exception to the general provision, " unless the
legislature enacted the general provision later and it was
"the manifest intention of the General Assembly that
such general provision shall prevail." Id.
unpersuaded by the DOE's argument that money owed to
PSERS by a charter school is not a liability or obligation.
As the DOE's amicus recognizes, Black's Law
Dictionary defines the word "liability, " in
relevant part, as "[a] financial or pecuniary obligation
in a specified amount; debt." Black's Law
Dictionary (10th ed. 2014); PSERS Board's Brief at
15. "Obligation" is defined, in relevant part, as
"[a] legal … duty to do … something."
Black's Law Dictionary (10th ed. 2014). The
Charter School Law clearly and unambiguously mandates that a
charter school remit payments to PSERS for its employees. 24
P.S. § 17-1724-A(c) ("The charter school shall be
considered a school district and shall make payments by
employers to the Public School Employees' Retirement
System[.]") (emphasis added). When a charter school
fails to comply with its legal duty to make PSERS payments,
section 8327(b)(2) operates to allow PSERS to recover the
amount owed. Thus, a charter school's PSERS payments are
unquestionably its financial obligation.
reiterate, section 8327(b)(2) provides:
To facilitate the payments of amounts due from any charter
school, as defined in … the Public School Code of
1949, to the fund through the State Treasurer and to permit
the exchange of credits between the State Treasurer and any
employer, the Secretary of Education and the State Treasurer
shall cause to be deducted and paid into the fund from any
funds appropriated to the Department of Education for basic
education of the chartering school district of a charter
school and public school employees' retirement
contributions amounts equal to the employer and pickup
contributions which a charter school is required to pay to
the fund, as certified by the board, and as remains unpaid on
the date such appropriations would otherwise be paid to the
chartering school district or charter school. Such amounts
shall be credited to the appropriate accounts in the fund.
Any reduction in payments to a chartering school district
made pursuant to this section shall be deducted from the
amount due to the charter school district pursuant to the
Public School Code of 1949.
24 Pa.C.S.A. § 8327(b)(2) (footnote omitted). Section
When a charter is revoked, not renewed, forfeited,
surrendered or otherwise ceases to operate, the charter
school shall be dissolved. After the disposition of any
liabilities and obligations of the charter school, any
remaining assets of the charter school, both real and
personal, shall be distributed on a proportional basis to the
school entities with students enrolled in the charter school
for the last full or partial school year of the charter
school. In no event shall such school entities or the
Commonwealth be liable for any outstanding liabilities or
obligations of the charter school.
24 P.S. § 17-1729-A(i) (emphasis added).
8327(b)(2) and the relevant portion of section 1729-A(i) both
address the same subject -- unpaid obligations of charter
schools -- and therefore are in pari
materia. 1 Pa.C.S.A. § 1932(a); see also Phila. Fire
Officers Ass'n v. Pa. Labor Relations Bd.,
369 A.2d 259, 261 (Pa. 1977) (finding two statutes that both
address collective bargaining to be in pari materia). Section
8327(b)(2) facilitates the payment of a charter school's
outstanding obligations to PSERS by withholding those amounts
from the funding due to the chartering school district.
Section 1729-A(i) precludes, under any circumstance, making a
school district responsible for a closed charter school's
outstanding obligations. Reading these two statutes as one,
and giving effect to every provision, we conclude that it was
the intent of the General Assembly that the directive in
section 8327(b)(2) is only operative if the
charter school remains open and operational at the time the
DOE withholds the money from the chartering school district.
result is the same without engaging in a statutory
interpretation based upon in pari materia principles. Section
8327(b)(2) generally provides that a charter school's
unpaid PSERS obligations are to be deducted from the
chartering school district's funding. The relevant
portion of section 1729-A(i), on the other hand, addresses
the more narrow question of who is responsible for the unpaid
obligations of a closed charter school. It specifically
instructs that "[i]n no event" can a school
district be financially responsible for a closed charter
school's outstanding liabilities and obligations. 24 P.S.
§ 17-1729-A(i). As noted above, section 1729-A(i) was
enacted three years after section 8327(b)(2). See
supra, note 7. The legislature was therefore aware of
the dictates of section 8327(b)(2) and deliberately included
the pertinent language in section 1729-A(i) absolving the
chartering school district from responsibility for a closed
charter school's outstanding financial obligations, which
would include a charter school's outstanding payments
owed to PSERS. A conflict between the provisions arises when
a charter school has closed prior to the DOE withholding
funding from the school district. Therefore, section
1729-A(i), the more specific statutory section, operates as
an exception to the general rule set forth in section
8327(b)(2). See 1 Pa.C.S.A. § 1933. Because
delinquent PSERS contributions are an outstanding obligation
and liability of a charter school, a school district cannot
be financially responsible for the unpaid PSERS payments
after the charter is revoked or terminated.
legislature's choice of language in section 8327(b)(2) is
also significant. It requires the withholding of funds from
"the chartering school district" of amounts that
are unpaid as of "the date such appropriations would
otherwise be paid to the chartering school district or
charter school." Id. A charter school without a
charter, however, is dissolved and ceases to exist. No money
"would otherwise be paid" to a charter school that
no longer exists and a closed charter school likewise has no