Senate Bill 904: A tremendous step in the right direction for Charter Schools
April 12, 2011
Senate Bill 904 is a tremendous step in the right direction, not only for charter schools, but for all public education in Pennsylvania. It legitimizes the charter school option as a fundamental part of the fabric of public education in Pennsylvania; removes political shackles from high quality charter school operators; and provides fair, transparent, and consistent application and accountability standards. SB 904 frees charters to grow and develop but simultaneously imposes stringent standards for quality and accountability – which is fine with us.
We strongly support SB 904.
Senate Bill 904:
Demands Accountability and Transparency: The Bill requires alignment of the behavior of all charter board members and employees with the state Ethics Act and charges a newly formed independent commission with responsibility for authorization and oversight of all charter schools, including full financial disclosure and annual independent audits.
Awards Achievement: Renewals for charters are expanded from five to 10 years.
Encourages Choice: Multiple charter authorizers are permitted which removes many of the political and legal conflicts that arise when the fox has sole control of the hen house. Parents will have more choices and thousands of taxpayer dollars that are now being spent on legal actions can be re-directed to educating the children – as they should be.
Creates Consistency: The independent commission will standardize all charter application, renewal, and reporting processes throughout the state. Furthermore, under SB 904, charters will be treated the same as school districts for purposes of AYP.
Provides a Process for Fair Funding: SB 904 provides for direct payment of funds from the Department of Education to all charters and creates an advisory committee to investigate and recommend changes to the currently complicated and unfair method for funding charters.
Institutes Other Common Sense Reforms: SB 904 also permits a single “charter school administrative unit” to operate multiple charters, enables charters to apply for charter amendments, and makes it easier for charters to use vacant school district buildings.