Five Reasons to Pass Charter School Reform Legislation SB-1115
September 19, 2012
The 180 charter schools in Pennsylvania serve more than 105,000 students, with an additional 44,000 on waiting lists. Six percent of all the students in public education in Pennsylvania are being educated in charter schools, but the law governing charters has not changed since it was originally passed in 1997. Now is the time to act on legislation which embodies national best practices designed to create and nurture high quality charter schools.
The following tenants are encompassed in SB 1115 and need to be in the final legislation.
Numerous provisions hold charter schools more accountable to taxpayers – including expanded application of the Ethics Act, establishing unreserved fund balance limits, requiring annual independent audits, and creating the Charter School Entities Board.
1. Improves Oversight
Strong, consistent, and fair authorizers, at both the district and state level, are the single most important driving force to creating high quality charter schools. The Charter School Entities Board is charged with creating and implementing national best practices performance metrics, processes, procedures and forms – and with having the guts to close poor performing charter schools.
2. Provides a Process to Resolve Funding Conflicts
The current funding formula places traditional and charter schools in conflict over money rather than in cooperation over improving public education for our children. This legislation creates an Independent Funding Advisory Committee to investigate and recommend a more equitable, transparent, timely, and predictable funding methodology for all charter schools.
3. Improves Charter School Operating Efficiencies
Allows charters to apply to amend their charter to offer new programs, have access to unused facilities, take advantage of bond intercept provisions, and streamline their staff and boards – all of which saves taxpayers money.
4. Nurtures High Quality Educational Options
Renewal terms for high quality charter schools are extended from 5 to ten years, but only after the school has proven itself and under the condition that they can still be closed for reason at any time.
This legislation provides a long overdue update and strengthening of charter legislation, which will lay the foundation for the evolution for more, and better quality, educational options for the parents and children of Pennsylvania.