Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has previously addressed his concerns regarding charter schools throughout the state. On Tuesday, August 13, he pledged to change the charter-school policies in Pennsylvania to increase accountability for the schools. Charter schools cost taxpayers in the state $1.8 billion within the last year. However, school districts and the state are limited in the authority they have to hold these charter schools accountable. In addition to this, these charter schools are not held to the same ethical and transparency standards that other public schools are.
At a news conference, Wolf stated that he would direct the state Department of Education to change regulations for charters. He also plans to revise the state’s charter law in order to create a “level playing field for all taxpayer-funded public schools.” To accomplish these goals, the governor outlined a three-part approach to the situation. This plan entails executive actions, regulations, and legislation to provide comprehensive charter school reform
Later on, on August 26, Wolf took his next step in implementing these changes. He stated, “Pennsylvania’s charter school law is one of the worst in the country and is failing students, teachers, school districts and taxpayers. We cannot wait any longer to take action.”
The governor is directing the Department of Education to develop the following regulations for charter schools:
- Allow school districts to limit enrollment at charter schools that do not provide a high-quality, equitable education to students
- Require more transparency with charter school admission as well as enrollment policies that prevent discrimination
- Hold charter schools and the for-profit management companies to the same transparency standard as public schools
- Establish the same ethical standards for each charter school’s Board of Trustees and management companies that apply to public schools
- Require regular financial audits and public contract bidding
- Establish requirements to document costs to prevent school districts and taxpayers from being overcharged.
In addition to these regulations, the Department of Education is creating a “fee-for-service” model. This plans to recover the costs of implementing the charter school law. In order to reform legislation regarding the situation, the governor plans to work on a proposal with the General Assembly to hold low-performing charter schools accountable, cap their student enrollment, require the management companies to be subject to the Right to Know Act, and create a moratorium on new cyber charter schools.
Regarding these plans for the future of Pennsylvania education law, Wolf stated, “Improving transparency and holding underperforming charter and cyber charter schools accountable will level the playing field with school districts and help to control costs for taxpayers.”
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