Wolf Launches Regulatory ‘Fix’ for Pennsylvania Charter Schools
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf on Friday kicked off the process of regulating some of his charter school reform proposals that the legislature has so far been unwilling to pass.
He said most of the six new rules align with requirements that school districts must also meet, from financial and auditing standards to posting non-discriminatory enrollment policies online.
“We have a responsibility to all students, parents and taxpayers to fix our broken charter schools law,” Wolf said on Friday. “Every child in Pennsylvania deserves a high quality education that prepares them for success in life, but our current law allows some charter schools to perform poorly to the detriment of students enrolled in traditional district schools. “
The proposed regulations would also subject charter school board members to the Civil Servants and Employees Ethics Act, which sets limits on conflicts of interest and penalties for violations.
And the administration wants to establish guidelines for the application of the new charters and clarify the process of reconciling payment disputes between districts and charters.
“These regulations, combined with my bipartite and common sense legislative package, provide much needed consistency, transparency and accountability, while preserving school choice,” Wolf said.
The governor has long supported revisions to the State Charter Schools Act 1997 which he said strengthens the transparency and accountability of underperforming charter schools.
He also called for legislative changes that would standardize tuition fees at cyber-institutions and reformulate the distribution of funding for special education. The policies would reduce the district’s payments to charter schools by $ 395 million, he said.
Currently, tuition fees for online charters range between $ 9,170 and $ 22,300 per student. Schools receive funding for special education equal to 16% of their enrollment. Critics have said this outdated notion means that some charters are “overpaid” for services they don’t provide.
A Commonwealth Foundation analysis, however, found that public schools subtract certain tuition fees up front – including transportation, facilities, and debt services – meaning charters receive around 27% of less per student than the district, according to his data.
Charter school advocates said Wolf’s reforms would cut special education students by $ 99 million and rob cyber institutions of $ 129 million.
The changes, included in Bill 272, have not yet received any consideration in the House education committee, where Republicans remain opposed to policies that stifle funding for charter schools.
While the proposed regulations don’t offer any of his favorite financial changes, the governor’s decision to bypass the legislative process has disappointed Lenny McAllister, CEO of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools (PCPCS).
He told The Center Square on Friday that the regulations “would hurt students and waste taxpayers’ money.”
“Once again, the Wolf administration shuns good governance for the lure of bad politics – this time with thousands of disadvantaged students in public charter schools across the Commonwealth endangered,” he said. he declares. “Forcing regulations that tacitly hamper a growing segment of public education at a time when Pennsylvania families are demanding expanded options for their children ignores an undeniable message during this pandemic.”
Registering for the cyber charter school flew last year, as students fled district schools amid the uncertainty of the pandemic. Districts said the unexpected spike came at a time when reduced tax revenues and other unanticipated costs – such as personal protective equipment, cleaning supplies and improved technologies needed for distance education – have strained already tight budgets.
Art Levinowitz, president of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association and a member of the Upper Dublin School Board, said earlier this year that his district had suffered a 200% cyber charter tuition hike.
McAllister said on Friday that the role of the pandemic in transferring more students to charter schools only follows a trend that has been strengthening for decades.
In April, the coalition released the results of a statewide poll that showed 69% of respondents support charter cyber schools.
The survey, administered by Susquehanna Polling and Research, included responses from more than 700 people. The results showed strong bipartisan support for charter schools, PCPCS said.
“Reforms that improve public education and empower Pennsylvania parents in district schools and public charter schools must involve the 253 members of the General Assembly who are directly charged by voters to do this necessary work,” McAllister said. “In fact, this proposal calls for twilight approval of the governor’s term, a decision that belies the 2022 election when a new governor is elected and 90% of the seats in the General Assembly could be filled by new ones. legislators. “
The proposed regulations now begin a lengthy approval process that begins with review by the General Assembly, the Independent Regulatory Review Board and the Legislative Reference Office.
A 30-day comment period will open on September 18, following publication of the regulations in the PA Bulletin. The finalized rules could go into effect in 2023, the administration said.
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Original author: Christen Smith, The Central Square
Original location: Wolf Launches Regulatory ‘Fix’ for Pennsylvania Charter Schools