November 08, 2013
The Nov. 7 editorial regarding Senate Bill 1085 contains several misunderstandings of the proposed legislation and of how the funding process for charter schools actually works. SB 1085 does not eliminate districts’ ability to negotiate charter school enrollment caps. Rather, it prohibits districts from unilaterally imposing caps, which is already illegal under both previous legislation and court decision. SB 1085 provides for direct payment from the state because many districts refuse to pay charters, requiring charters to borrow to meet cash flow needs, costing taxpayers money on interest charges. SB 1085 extends charter renewals to ten years only for schools meeting academic performance criteria.
Concerning oversight, there will never be consistently strong charters until there are consistently strong and fair authorizers, and that is a problem across Pennsylvania. SB 1085 mandates consistent processes, procedures, and evaluation criteria which do not exist today.
Most of all, so long as districts focus on the wrong problem, they will never get the right answer. More than 120,000 parents have moved their children to charter schools because of some serious problem in their traditional school. All any district needs to do to stop the “drain” of money to charter schools is to listen to the parents, and change to address their concerns.