State lawmakers suspend charter school law reform
Charter school advocates will wait out the summer before renewing efforts to add new layers of transparency and accountability for the privately run, publicly funded schools.
Charter school alliances across the commonwealth blamed hard-ball politics and stalling tactics for delays in reforming how charter schools operate, including new mechanisms for oversight, monitoring, appeals process and criteria for public education dollars. The charter school bill was intended as a part of an approved state budget before both sides agreed to postpone talks on charter school reform until after the summer recess.
Pennsylvania’s Republicans wanted more avenues for charter school expansions, especially in the Philadelphia public school system, which is slowly recovering from a major budget crisis. Legislation stalled when Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf and Democratic state Sen. Vincent Hughes, who represents Philadelphia County and part of Montgomery County, opposed it.
Robert Fayfich, executive director of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools, believes there was strong push-back from the leadership in Philadelphia public schools, which serves in the role of authorizing quality charter schools.
“There was some language regarding enrollment caps,” Fayfich said. “The school district wanted unilateral control and charter schools say no, it’s inconsistent with state law.”
In a statement released by the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers union, union President Jerry Jordan called the legislation, “a very problematic piece of pro-charter school legislation” because it would essentially compromise the school district’s authority to limit charter school growth and weaken its ability to manage its budget.”
“Passage of HB 530 would have given charter school companies even more freedom to expand,” Jordan said. “PFT members have first-hand knowledge of how charter school growth has resulted in fewer resources for their students. That’s why, when HB 530 was introduced, thousands of educators wrote or called their state legislators and urged them to vote no.”
The legislation includes auditing and accountability provisions advocates have wanted for years and it would clear the way for a 10-year charter school renewal and allow multiple campuses to merge under governance of a single board, according to PennCAN, which advocates for research-based reform and school choice.
A statement released last week by the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter School laid blame on politics in Harrisburg.
“The contentions that HB 530 would allow any charter to unilaterally expand or make changes to its charter or that the legislation would loosen enrollment cap limits are simply not true, and have been created as a distraction State lawmakers suspend charter school law reform - The Philadelphia Tribune: News:
Big Education Ape: 20 reasons to vote no on Pa. HB 530 charter school reform STOP #hb1606! #phled #pabudget #hb530 - http://bigeducationape.blogspot.com/2016/07/20-reasons-to-vote-no-on-pa-hb-530.html