Harrisburg, PA (STL.News) Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and lawmakers announced bipartisan legislation to fix Pennsylvania’s broken charter school law. Under the current law, charter schools aren’t being held accountable, and students are being left behind.
The governor’s plan will hold schools accountable to students, families and communities, improve education quality, protect public transparency and save taxpayers millions of dollars each year.
The plan has received support from education groups for its focus on quality and accountability:
LEARN Pennsylvania Chair Frank Gallagher
“We are grateful that Governor Wolf and members of the General Assembly understand the urgent need for charter school funding reform for Pennsylvania taxpayers. This bipartisan proposal will end overpayments to charter schools that have driven up property taxes and preserve parent choice.
“The proposed legislation will save $229 million dollars for school districts this year; but more importantly it will finally address the biggest cost drivers in school district budgets. To continue on the current path is financially unsustainable.
“Our current funding system allows charter schools to divert resources meant for students with disabilities for other purposes. It also forces school districts to pay twice as much for cyber charter programs than we pay for our own remote learning programs. Neither is acceptable. Both must be changed.
“We thank Governor Wolf, Representatives Joe Ciresi, Wendi Thomas and Tracy Pennycuick, and Senators Lindsay Williams and Jim Brewster for leading this effort. We urge the General Assembly to move swiftly to enact these reforms and put Pennsylvania on the path toward a more accountable and fiscally sound charter funding system.”
Pennsylvania School Boards Association CEO Nathan Mains
“PSBA has long advocated on behalf of reform to PA’s outdated 23-year-old Charter School Law and we support Gov. Wolf’s effort to implement savings, along with additional accountability and transparency for charter schools in Pennsylvania. The current funding formula, which has public school districts paying mandated tuition to charter schools at an inflated rate beyond the actual costs dedicated to student education is flawed and requires substantial regulatory and funding changes.”
Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators
“PASA supports Governor Wolf’s proposal to update the outdated charter school law that lacks both financial and academic accountability.”
Pennsylvania Association for Rural and Small Schools
“The landscape of education continually transforms. This year, more than ever, educational instructional models have had to pivot – from in-person learning, to fully virtual, to hybrid, and everything in between. Pennsylvania’s public education system is strong, steadfast, flexible, resilient, and free for all students. Cyber charter school systems provide unique opportunities, but those opportunities are only afforded because of tax dollars being stripped away from the local, public, community schools. Taxpayers, community members, who believe they are supporting the education of their local schools are being forced to have those dollars redirected to for-profit cyber charter schools, limiting funding available for students in the community schools. The guiding principle behind the school district taxation system is that local public taxpayers annually support a local, community school. Funding an alternative, for-profit school system through public funds with limited to no accountability is counterintuitive to the premise of free, public education supported by the multitude of communities across the state. These cyber charter school reform measures are essential for fiscal responsibility and accountability for all Pennsylvanians and more specifically to the education provided to children throughout the Commonwealth.”
Education Voters of PA Executive Director Susan Spicka
“Governor Wolf’s proposed changes to Pennsylvania’s charter school law are welcome, necessary, and long overdue. In 2020-2021, Pennsylvania taxpayers will spend more than $2.5 billion on charter school tuition bills, including an estimated $980 million that will be sent to cyber charter schools. Because the state provides no subsidy to school districts for charter school expenditures, these costs will largely be paid for by property tax dollars.
“These proposed reforms would reduce wasteful spending on cyber charter schools by more closely matching cyber school tuition rates with the actual cost of educating students at home on a computer; eliminate the profit that charters reap off of payments for students with disabilities by using the same special education funding formula for district and charter schools; and create strong protections against conflicts of interest, nepotism, and financial self-dealing among individuals in the charter sector to prevent the excessive profiteering that has occurred in the past.
“These are commonsense reforms that should receive broad, bipartisan support.”