Charter-School Reform Proposed for Pennsylvania

Gov. Tom Wolf says PA's charter-school law is "one of the worst in the nation."

Pennsylvania's governor proposed Tuesday changing the state's charter-school law to improve school quality, accountability and transparency.

“Pennsylvania’s charter school law is unfair for students, parents, school districts and taxpayers,” says Gov. Tom Wolf. “While many charter schools are succeeding, others, especially some cyber charter schools, are underperforming and we are not doing enough to hold them accountable to the taxpaying public and the children they serve."

The Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools was critical of what it called Wolf's "so-called charter reform package."

While noting that there are 180 charter schools in the state with more than 135,000 students, Ana Meyers, executive director of the Coalition, says the governor "has the audacity to propose stripping these families with their right to choose an educational option that meets the needs of their children and trapping students in failing district schools, simply because they don’t have the economic means to access a better education."

Among the changes Wolf is proposing are: 

  • Allow districts to limit enrollment at charters that do not provide a high-quality education.
  • Require admission and enrollment policies that do not discriminate based on intellectual or athletic ability, race/ethnicity, gender or disability.
  • Hold charter schools and operators to the same transparency standards as school districts. 
  • Require charters' governing boards be free from conflicts of interest.
  • Provide greater oversight over school management companies.

The Democratic governor has some support from Republicans on the issue, according to WHYY.

The chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Lehigh County Republican Pat Browne, says funding for charter schools has "reached a crisis point," WHYY says, adding that the Pennsylvania School Boards Association has also backed Wolf on the issue.

School districts are required to pay tuition for their students who enroll in charter schools, which cost them $1.8 billion last year, according to Pennlive.com