Charter and Education Reform Organizations Respond to House Leadership Cyber Charter Legislation Announcement

January 25, 2013

The Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools, the Black Alliance for Educational Options, StudentsFirst, Students First PA, and PennCAN are extremely disappointed with today’s announcement by House Majority Leader Mike Turzai of the proposed legislation that will cripple the education of the 34,000 children who choose cyber charter schools.

This package is a fragmented and misguided attempt to address financial concerns related to the growth of cyber charter schools while ignoring fundamental common sense improvements to the entire system of public charter education that would benefit the students who have exercised their choice to attend a public charter school.

The legislative package advanced today:

–          disregards the real costs associated with creating and operating a high-quality, distance learning school;

–          turns a blind eye to the fact that cyber schools are already providing quality education to students for about 30 percent less than taxpayers are paying to their school districts;

–          completely ignores 14 of the 21 deductions that districts take prior to paying a charter school and adds four new deductions;

–          continues to incentivize schools districts that are pre-disposed to do so, to manipulate their financial cost structures;

–          does absolutely nothing to further the quality of education offered to the more than 115,000 children who attend all public charter and cyber charter schools; and

–          is a major step backwards in education reform.

This proposed legislative package neglects to include real reform which could increase accountability and transparency while fostering a nurturing environment for high-quality schools. Instead it mandates arbitrary cuts, piles inequity upon inequity, signals the beginning of the end for good cyber charter schools, and is a severe blow to school choice in Pennsylvania.

Had the General Assembly enacted true charter reform last session in the form of the comprehensive bill that was extensively debated, the proposed funding commission would have conducted a complete and objective examination of all aspects of charter schools funding, completed its work by now, and provided lawmakers with a blueprint to enact equitable funding reforms. Increased transparency and accountability would now also have been a hallmark of Pennsylvania’s charter school law with new authorizing structures and monitoring procedures that would have held all charter schools to high standards and insisted upon the closure of those schools that do not provide their students with the education they deserve. Instead, our charter school law, which hasn’t been updated since it was enacted in 1997, continues to be deficient for parents, children, and taxpayers and relegates Pennsylvania to an even lower position among other states in providing quality public educational options for parents and children.

It is unfortunate that these proposals are being advanced without input from the charter school and education reform community. Today’s announcement is a major setback to meaningful dialogue, but we continue to be willing to work with the General Assembly and the Administration to pass a comprehensive reform bill that expands high-quality choices, strengthens monitoring and accountability, and addresses all financial inequities. We owe that to the parents, children, and taxpayers of this state.

About the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools (PCPCS)

PCPCS is dedicated to choice, quality, and accountability in public education. We advocate for legislation and policies that support those objectives and provide assistance to charter schools, with the aspiration of making every charter school in Pennsylvania a high performing public school. More than 115,000 children are enrolled in 180 charter schools throughout the Commonwealth with more than 44,000 on waiting lists to get into a charter school. For more information on PCPCS or charter schools, visit www.pacharters.org.

About the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO)

BAEO works to increase access to high-quality educational options for black children by actively supporting parental choice policies and programs that empower low-income and working class black families. The purpose of BAEO is to educate and inform the general public about parent choice initiatives on the local and national level; to educate black families about the numerous types of educational options available and how to access them; and to create, promote, and support efforts to protect and increase quality options. Philadelphia BAEO was launched in 2001. For more information, visit www.philadelphia.baeo.org.

About StudentsFirst

StudentsFirst is a bipartisan grassroots movement of more than 2 million members nationwide, working to focus our education system on what’s best for students. Today, too many of America’s children are not getting the quality education they need and deserve. StudentsFirst is helping to change that with common sense reforms that help make sure all students have great schools and great teachers. We are working to ensure educators are valued for the critical role they play in kids’ lives, families have high-quality school choices and a real say in their child’s education, and our tax dollars are spent wisely on what works for kids. Launched by former Washington D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee in December 2010, StudentsFirst has successfully helped pass more than 110 student-centered policies in 17 states, and our movement continues to grow. For more information, visit www.studentsfirst.org.  Contact: mediarequests@studentsfirst.org.

About Students First PA

The mission of Students First PA is to educate and empower parents, support and advocate for equal opportunity to high quality educational options and to ensure income and/or ZIP code does not prevent a child from having access to a safe and high quality education. For more information, visit www.studentsfirstpa.com or contact info@studentsfirstpa.com.

About PennCAN

PennCAN: The Pennsylvania Campaign for Achievement Now is an education advocacy organization building a movement of Pennsylvanians with the political will to enact smart public policies so that every child has access to a great public school. PennCAN weaves research, communications, mobilization and advocacy for policy change into a unified public movement that demands – and gets – results. Underlying all of our actions is a belief in three fundamental principles: greater choice, greater accountability and greater flexibility. Learn more at www.penncan.org

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