PCPCS announces its legislative agenda for 2021
HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools (PCPCS), which represents brick-and-mortar and cyber charter schools throughout the Commonwealth, today urged state lawmakers to ensure fair funding for all public school students in Pennsylvania.
“Every cent of public education funding should follow every Pennsylvania child without cuts, without delays and without fail,” said Lenny McAllister, CEO of the Coalition.
McAllister said public charter school students, on average, receive only 75 percent of funding for their education compared to their peers in district schools. He added that the majority of charter school students are students of color and many come from economically disadvantaged families.
“We believe that education is the civil rights issue of the 21st Century,” McAllister said. “With the proper support of school choice, Pennsylvania’s leaders can open a gateway of opportunity and self-sufficiency for children who are among the most vulnerable in our Commonwealth.”
As part of its 2021 Legislative Agenda, the Coalition urged state lawmakers to reject any public school funding cuts, both in school districts and charter schools. The Coalition supports the following legislative measures:
- Creating an independent, bipartisan, bicameral funding commission spearheaded by the General Assembly to study all aspects of public charter schools, focusing on the needs of students.
- Establishing a direct pay system for public charter schools from the Pennsylvania Department of Education and providing funding for facilities.
- Amending the Pennsylvania School Code to allow public charter school students to participate in dual enrollment programs, which would help prepare them for future careers and life opportunities.
“Pennsylvania school students deserve and require support for their education, especially during these unprecedented times,” McAllister said. “We look forward to working with lawmakers to ensure fairness and support for all students.”
The Coalition also called on lawmakers to streamline and standardize public charter school oversight in Pennsylvania, including the following measures:
- Establishing regional, independent authorizers for brick-and-mortar public charter schools that include representatives of business, higher education and community groups.
- Designing a standard charter school application and prohibiting charter school authorizers from demanding additional items that are both unnecessary and burdensome.
- Creating a timeline in which charter authorizers must act and requiring the governor to make timely nominations to the Charter Appeal Board to ensure effective and efficient governance.
“The law is clear on what is required of charter school authorizers, which are local school districts for brick-and-mortar charters and the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) for cyber charters,” said Jessica Hickernell, Director of Public Affairs and Policy at PCPCS. “However, there is no recourse for charter schools if their authorizer is derelict in their duties or abuses their power.”
Hickernell noted that 10 of the state’s 13 cyber charter schools are awaiting renewal of their charter agreements, and some have been waiting years for PDE to act. She said some authorizers, such as the School District of Philadelphia, impose burdensome mandates on charter schools that go far beyond what the law requires and treat the schools they authorize inequitably. She said the PA Charter School Law must be amended to hold charter authorizers accountable.
The Coalition also supports strengthening accountability and rewarding innovation across Pennsylvania’s public education system, including:
- Leveraging the expertise of public charter schools to improve education for all students by amending the PA School Code to allow charter schools to serve as vendors.
- Increasing accountability for charter school management organizations and codifying accountability measures that public charter schools have already self-imposed.
- Extending charter agreements for high-quality public charter schools, so they can continue to educate some of Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable students.
For more information contact Jess Hickernell at firstname.lastname@example.org.