Gov. Wolf Charter School proposal to benefit students, taxpayers

Regional News

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WTAJ) — Governor Tom Wolf announced a proposal of new regulations to increase charter school transparency and accountability to improve the quality of Pennsylvania charter schools.

“We have a responsibility to all students, parents and taxpayers to fix our broken charter school law,” Gov. Wolf said.

Wolf’s proposal would address the state’s broken charter school law and save Pennsylvania school districts an estimated $395 million by lowering high charter school costs. The proposal, if approved, would also protect students by holding low-performing charter schools accountable and increase transparency for for-profit companies that manage the schools to restore trust.

“These regulations, in combination with my bipartisan and common-sense legislative package, provide much-needed consistency, transparency and accountability while preserving school choice,” Wolf said.

The proposed regulations would tighten up current legislation in the following areas:

  1. Charter school applications requirement: Establishes requirements for applications to open a charter school, allowing school districts authorizing brick and mortar charter schools and the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) authorizing cyber charter schools to hold the schools to high academic, fiscal and administrative standards, ensures charter schools will equitably serve all students; and provides consistent application expectations.
  2. Non-discriminatory enrollment policies: Requires charter schools to post theirnon-discrimination enrollment policy on their website and in the student application so families and taxpayers know how admission preferences are considered and weighted.
  3. Boards of Trustees ethics standards: Clarifies that charter school trustees are subject to the state’s Public Official and Employee Ethics Act, addresses conflicts of interest, and sets penalties for violations. The same requirements already apply to school districts.
  4. Financial and auditing standards: Requires charter schools to use commonaccounting principles and auditing standards as school districts already do. This will make reviewing annual reporters and financial records easier for school districts and PDE.
  5. Redirection process clarification: Outlines the process to reconcile disputes over school district payments to charter schools for student tuition.
  6. Charter school employee health care benefits parity: Ensures charter school staff have adequate health care. The charter school law requires charter schools provide the same health care benefits as the authorizing school district. The regulation clarifies that when a charter school serves more than one school district, the school district in which the charter school’s administrative office is located is the district of comparison.

The proposal has been submitted by the Department of Education and sent to the General Assembly, the Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) and the Legislative Reference Bureau. The package is published in the PA Bulletin and is open to public comment until Oct. 18.

The department encourages all interested students, parents, educators, stakeholders and the general public to submit comments to RA-EDCharterRegs@pa.gov.

After the public comment period, the department will finalize the proposal and submit it to the IRRC for the last step in the review process.

Wolf expects the new regulations to go into effect by 2023.

“Every child in Pennsylvania deserves a high-quality education that prepares them to succeed in life, but our current law lets some charter schools perform poorly at the expense of students enrolled in traditional district schools,” Wolf said.

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