Gov. Wolf proposes changes to charter school laws, local educators share ideas

Local News

LOGAN TOWNSHIP, BLAIR COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — State leaders say Pennsylvania has one of the worst and most outdated charter school laws in the country.

Governor Wolf stopped by Logan Elementary School in Blair County on Tuesday to discuss plans to hold these schools accountable.

The governor said he’s relying on educators from across to commonwealth to speak up about their issues and experiences with these charter schools.

His three-part plan to fix the flawed charter laws includes executive action, overhauling regulations and proposing new laws to reform the current charter school legislation.

More than a dozen area superintendents attended the governor’s meeting.

Accountability and transparency were the two words were on repeat during the governor’s visit. Now, local superintendents say it’s time for both of those to become requirements for charter schools across the Commonwealth.

Amy Arcurio from the Greater Johnstown School District said working together and creating resources for all students is just part of what needs to be done to fix the issues regarding charter schools.

“We believe that families should have choices; however, we believe that accountability and transparency of cyber schools and charter school are just as important as they are for traditional school districts, like Greater Johnstown,” she said.

$2.3M of the school budget for the school district went to outside charter schools, money Arcurio argued could have been used for educational programs for her students.

“Students often have barriers to education and their success and when we have appropriate resources, we are able to give our students what they need for their success and a lifetime of success,” she said.

An average of 135 students in the Greater Johnstown School District are enrolled in an outside charter school, even though Greater Johnstown has a cyber-charter school of their own.

As for what Arcurio said needs to be done: Implement stronger checks and balances within the charter schools, knowing exactly how, and where, the money is spent.

“We’re just asking for accountability and transparency across all those choices that are ultimately responsible to the taxpayers of the commonwealth,” she said.

Superintendent of the Altoona Area School District, Charles Prijatelj, said putting the needs of their students first is just one way their traditional and cyber schools are successful.

“They’re our kids. They’re not a number. They’re not a calculation. They’re not a line on a ledger sheet. Their skill sets, their abilities directly impact our communities,” he said.

The district’s cyber academy has a 100-percent passing rate for their students; however $3.3M out of the school budget goes towards outside charter schools, which has increased by a $1M from last year to this year.

“We could be building more of our AP and more of our dual-enrollment opportunities for kids, but we are we’re funding cyber-charter, to provide a product that we in turn also can provide, and provide at a very high level,” Prijatelj added.

As for what these charter school could be be doing better, Prijatelj said they need to focus on the students and talk with the local school district to figure out how their funding could be used in a more productive way to improve the education they’re providing.

“The whole cyber environment is a very challenging, instructional environment for the students, for the teachers, and to make that happen, you have to have a personal invested interest in how you get their kids from point a to point b,” he said.

During his visit, Governor Wolf called upon not just those in attendance, but every Pennsylvanian to come together and share their ideas and stories about how to provide the best education for students in the Commonwealth.

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