Fixing Pennsylvania’s Charter School Law to protect kids and (HB272/SB27)

This is from the daily newsletter PA Charter Change Roundup, produced by the Keystone Center for Charter Change at PSBA. For more info, check out their website
PA General Assembly Website, January 27, 2021
From:   Representative Joe Ciresi and Rep. Wendi Thomas
To:       All House members
In 1997 Google and Netflix didn’t exist, but Woolworth’s still did. The world has changed a lot since then, but one thing hasn’t: Pennsylvania’s antiquated charter school law. If we’re going to treat ALL schools fairly – and put kids and families first – we need a law built for the future. We need charters to be partners with our traditional public schools, not competitors for dollars taken from long-suffering homeowners. We need to be tough on the schools failing our kids when it comes to academics, ethics, and cost. We need to reward solid performers who are innovating while still delivering on our obligations. We can save almost a quarter-BILLION dollars a year and make our current system better, and there’s a plan to do that – House Bill 272, the Charter School Reform Act of 2021. Better results, better information for parents, and the peace of mind to know money invested is building a future our kids deserve. The Charter School Reform Act of 2021 (HB 272) includes:
Protecting Your Right to Know
Requires charter school trustees and administrators to live by the same financial and ethical reporting standards public school board members and school district officials live up to; Requires charter school meetings to follow the Sunshine Act; Requires any company running a charter school to open up their records so the people can see if they’re educating kids properly or just cashing in.
Protecting Your Property Tax Dollars
This year twenty cents of EVERY dollar paid in property tax will go to charter schools. Just 14 cyber charter schools are collecting over a half-billion dollars in tax money. Requires a statewide, data-driven cyber charter school tuition rate to make sure all taxpayers are getting the same results for the same dollars and ending the wide disparity in rates affecting tuition in neighboring districts; Our plan requires charter schools to use the Special Education Fair Funding Formula public schools use to ensure students in need are getting the results they deserve and preventing huge tax rate increases on homeowners in districts serving rapidly growing populations of students with special needs; Requires charter schools to carry enough insurance to take care of kids and families if the charter closes or the parent company goes out of business.
Protecting the Future of Our Kids
Creates a standard state framework for charter school applications so potential school operators know just what is required to deliver success; Standardizes the method to change charter schools’ missions and goals to reward innovation and best practices, and ensure school districts have the tools needed to evaluate changes to charters; Creates a state grading system for charters to allow high-performing schools even more self-determination while focusing attention on low-performing schools to better serve the kids; Stops the creation of new cyber charter schools until the existing schools improve performance – right three out of every four charter schools rank in the bottom five percent of schools statewide – and charges DoE with creating enrollment and performance standards of the worst performers.
It’s a big job, but our kids, their parents, and our taxpayers are counting on us. It’s time for a change for the better. Please sign on to House Bill 272 and let’s get to work on passing a new, modern charter school law.