Earlier this year, Governor Tom Wolf addressed his concerns about charter schools throughout Pennsylvania. He described the 22-year-old charter school law in the state as “one of the worst in the country.” With this, Wolf vowed to change the policies regarding the schools in order to increase their accountability and hold them to the same standards that public schools are. In order to accomplish this, certain regulations were proposed by Wolf. On Tuesday, October 1, he took a step forward with his school reform plan by announcing the forthcoming closure of a cyber charter school.
Charter School Closure
The plan to close the Philadelphia-based Achieving Community Transformation Academy Charter School was made at a conference in Altoona. The agreement to close the state’s lowest-performing cyber charter school was made with the state Department of Education. The school is one of 15 cyber charter schools in the state with 104 students enrolled in the ninth through 12th grade. ACT Academy recently released its state test scores showing only 13.6% of its students were at grade-level in English/Literature, 4.6% in Math, and 4.6% in Sciences.
Charter school reform became a priority for Governor Wolf at the beginning of his second term in office following the negative cyber school reports from Stanford University. In his news release regarding the issue, Wolf stated, “There are high-quality charter schools, but some of them, especially some cyber charter schools, are underperforming. We must ensure that charter school students are getting a quality education they need and that charter schools are accountable to parents and taxpayers.”
Charter School Community Concerns
While the charter school community is supportive of some of Governor Wolf’s reform proposals, they fear that opportunities for families to seek public school alternatives may be diminished. Jessica Hickernell, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools, said, “It is unfortunate for the students who have chosen to attend ACT Academy that they have to find another educational option. These families made a choice to enroll in this school and now that choice is being taken from them.”
Many believe that Governor Wolf should hold all public schools accountable, not solely charter schools. In rebuttal, Wolf argues that there is very little public oversight over how these charter schools spend their money as they do not have a publicly elected school board to oversee them. He said, “The idea is to make sure we create a level playing field for traditional schools and charter schools.”
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