FYI – This is Not How Democracy Should Work – The Underlying Problem with the Charter Appeals Board

from a recent post on Diane Ravitch’s blog:
Recently, the elected School Board of Pittsburgh unanimously rejected a charter school called Catalyst Academy because of concern about its proposed disciplinary policy and its ability to meet the needs of students with disabilities. The School Board’s decision was overturned by the state’s Charter Appeals Board, which was appointed by the former Republican Governor. The members of the CAB have ties to the charter industry.
This is NOT how democracy should work.
Why should a highly conflicted board appointed by a former Governor have the authority to override the decision of a democratically elected community school board?


There is a greater story here about the Charter Appeals Board:  the 5 current members were all appointed by Governor Corbett and are all serving long past the end-date of their initial term.  (These terms ended as recently as June 2018 and as far back as June 2015). What’s more, 3 of these 5 members have direct ties to charter schools – as a teacher, parent, or spouse of an administrator.  Another has been a Catholic school trustee. The member filling CAB’s “school board member” position has been voted off his local school board. As a result: None are directly affiliated with or bringing the perspective of traditional public schools to Charter Appeals Board deliberations (as the Pittsburgh decision makes clear).  
You can see the “current” members of the CAB here:
Given the lopsided nature of CAB and members’ expired terms, why has this not changed? Why are members who were appointed by a Governor well known for his drastic cuts to public education still wielding this power?
Pursuant to section 1721-A of the Charter School Law, the term of office of members of the appeal board, other than the Secretary, shall be for a period of four years or until a successor is appointed and qualified. 24 P.S. § 17-1721-A.
It is long past time for Governor Wolf and Secretary of Education Pedro A. Rivera to nominate new members to this board and long past time for the Pennsylvania State Senate (currently comprised of 29 Republicans and 21 Democrats) to support a more balanced board on behalf of the Commonwealth’s public school students and families, and taxpayers.
Pedro A. Rivera, Secretary of Education, and Chair, State Charter Appeal Board, as of January 21, 2015.  
Higher Education Member – Vacant
**Cook, Julie A., A certified teacher in a public school*
Miller, Scott E., Business Member*
**Munger, Lee Ann, Parent of a school-aged child*
**Peri, Jonathan E., State Board of Education Member*
**Yanyanin, Mitchell J., School Board Member*
Sara Hockenberry, Counsel
*  Appointed by Governor Corbett
**Have ties to/teach at/advocate for charter schools/trustee at Catholic school
The CAB has specific requirements for each seat that were designed to create a balance of viewpoints. One seat each is reserved for:
  • An employee at a university or college (currently vacant).
  • A certified teacher in a public school.
  • A member of the business community.
  • A parent of a “school-aged child.”
  • A member of the state Board of Education.
  • A member of a school board.
Corbett found ways to ensure that most of his appointees were tied to the charter school sector. Not all of them still meet the requirement for the seat they occupy.
Mitchell Yanyanin, whose term expired in 2015, occupies the seat reserved for a school board member. Yanyanin served on the board of the New Brighton Area School District until 2015, but has since left. He ran for a seat on the Ambridge school board in 2017, but lost that race. So he no longer meets the requirement for the seat he occupiesHis wife, Nancy Yanyanin, worked as the personnel director at the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter until she was fired in late 2012, along with four others in senior positions. The firings came after FBI and IRS investigations of the school, though the cyber charter denied that the firings were related to the investigations.
The seat for a certified public school teacher is held by Julie Cook, who teaches at the Souderton Charter School Collaborative [confirmed –]. Her term expired in June 2018.
Vice Chair Lee Ann Munger occupies the seat for “parent of a school-aged child.” In 2007, her two children attended Propel Charter School. The charter school’s application to open was initially denied by the local school district, but later reversed by the Charter Appeal Board – a decision that Munger praised at the time, before Corbett appointed her to the appeals board. Her term ended in 2017.
Jonathan Peri, whose term also ended in 2017, holds the seat for a state Board of Education member. Though the governor has not replaced Peri on CAB, a year ago Wolf appointed him to be chair of the Higher Education Council for the state Department of Education. Peri is the president of Manor College, a small Catholic school in Jenkintown, Montgomery County. He was also chairman of the board of trustees at the Walden School, a private school in Media. And he’s been a trustee at Archbishop Ryan Catholic high school in Philadelphia
The vacant seat is the one designated for a college or university official.
The only member without public ties to charter or private schools is Scott Miller, the board’s business manager, who is the dean of the School of Business at Edinboro University in Pennsylvania. His term ended in 2015.

BASD Proud Parents is strictly pro-public education. We are an independent group with no affiliations to the BASD school board or any political parties. Our goals are to help parents stay informed about educational policy discussions and to facilitate ways for any of us who would like the chance to have our voices heard, to get more involved in those policy conversations.