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Education Groups Praise Governor Wolf’s Charter Reforms

August 19, 2019

Harrisburg, PA — Governor Tom Wolf took executive action last week to improve quality, transparency and accountability of Pennsylvania’s charter schools to control costs and improve outcomes for students. Immediately following the governor’s announcement, Sen. Pat Browne, Majority Appropriations Chairman, echoed his concerns and called for urgent action:

“The Governor’s actions today are an indication of the seriousness of the concerns for the current funding of public charter and cyber charter schools and its effect on overall public school finance in Pennsylvania. It has reached a crisis point creating the potential of significant detrimental effects on all of our students’ progress in school. The charter school funding formula was established 22 years ago and was the best available platform at that time. However, now it has created an irreconcilable financial conflict between charter and traditional schools which mandates both in-depth review and responsible legislative and executive action to address.”

Gov. Wolf also received support for his charter school actions from a variety of other legislators and education community leaders.

Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO)
“Governor Wolf’s announcement today signifies his commitment to pursuing necessary changes to the charter school funding law to ensure fairness and predictability for school districts, taxpayers and charter schools. There is a better way to fund charter schools, and PASBO looks forward to working with Governor Wolf and the General Assembly to both develop and implement effective policy to provide school districts and taxpayers with needed relief from rising charter school tuition costs and to implement other needed reform to current charter school law and policy.”

Research for Action
“Governor Wolf’s leadership on charter reform is just what Pennsylvania needs. The PA charter school law has not lived up to its promise to improve public education and increase opportunities for all students. This is because the law limits the authority of authorizers –– school districts and PDE –– to ensure accountability for high quality; and also because the legislature has neglected to provide adequate funding to support a second system of public schools. As RFA’s 2017 study found, charter school expansion creates a significant negative fiscal impact on school districts. Adding new choices creates new costs. To limit the fiscal impact, charter authorizers, school districts and PDE need authority to control charter school growth and the legislature must adequately fund the charter schools that are approved for expansion.”

American Federation of Teachers Pennsylvania
“We are very encouraged by Governor Wolf’s announcement today that he will back legislation to address commonsense charter school reforms in Pennsylvania, including transparency requirements, a cap on cyber charter enrollment and a moratorium on new cyber charter schools.
“If these reforms come to fruition, they will be a monumental win for educators, school kids, and taxpayers.

Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA)
“PASA supports the Governor’s efforts to make these overdue changes in current charter school law and to require the same level of accountability and transparency for student outcomes, management practice and financial operations as is required of Pennsylvania’s school districts. In addition, PASA strongly supports the Governor’s efforts to bring meaningful change to the oversight and regulation of cyber charter schools to ensure academic and fiscal accountability to students, parents and taxpayers.”

Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA)
“PSBA is pleased to see the Governor take action both by pushing much needed regulatory reform and proposing comprehensive legislation. PSBA has long-supported efforts to promote a level playing field between charter schools and traditional public schools, and has continuously called for desperately needed funding reform.”

Nathan G. Mains, CEO, PSBA
“We are glad the Governor has recognized the crisis, which has developed in charter school funding, accountability, performance, and transparency, and applaud his announced intention to prioritize action to reform this sector of education.”

Susan Spicka, Executive Director, Education Voters of Pennsylvania
“Education Voters of PA enthusiastically supports Governor Wolf’s proposals to increase accountability for charter schools to benefit Pennsylvania’s students and taxpayers.

“It is unacceptable that under the current system school districts must raise taxes or cut teachers and programs to send cyber schools money that they waste on advertising, bloated administrative salaries and more, all while these cyber schools allow their students to experience an overwhelmingly negative and potentially irreversible impact on their academic achievement.”

Rich Askey, President, Pennsylvania State Education Association
“Pennsylvania’s educators support many aspects of Gov. Wolf’s charter school reform initiative, and we look forward to partnering with the governor and the Legislature to find solutions that work for all students. The governor and PSEA agree that every student should have access to a high-quality education, and every school should meet rigorous transparency and accountability standards.”

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale
“Taxpayers deserve to know where their hard-earned money is going. There’s too little accountability for the $1.8 billion that taxpayers give to charter schools annually and it is time for that to change.

“Pennsylvania has the worst charter school law in the nation. Until the General Assembly acts, I believe the governor’s plan will help move us away from that unfortunate distinction.”

Rep. Joe Ciresi
“Charter school costs have been growing at an unsustainable rate at the expense of PA taxpayers, and it’s time we got better results. The outdated charter school law written in 1997 doesn’t fit the new reality of cyber charter education, and too many charter schools statewide underperform without any accountability to their students and our taxpayers.

“I have been actively working towards charter school reform in the legislature, including pushing for cyber charter funding reform, returning local control over charter funding to school districts, and ensuring accountability over how taxpayer money – $9.7 million just from my district – is spent through elected school board oversight. I am pleased to see the governor calling for new legislative reforms including performance standards, funding reform and relief for school districts, and greater transparency, and I look forward to working with him on creating meaningful change.”

Sen. Lindsey M. Williams
“Our Legislature has failed miserably to take even minor steps to hold charter schools accountable for how they spend the taxpayer dollars that they are given or for how their students perform. This inaction has allowed private institutions to spend millions of taxpayer dollars on slick advertisements that promise a higher-quality education, when the truth is that their performance is often worse than the very public schools that they siphon resources and students from. I applaud Governor Wolf for taking what executive actions he can to address these issues, but we know the real solution is for the legislature to address the larger structural issues with the outdated Charter School Law. To that end, I support Senator Browne’s call today for a special session on charter school funding, as well as Senator Brewster’s Charter School Reform Bill, SB 497. Our students and our communities cannot wait any longer for real reform.”

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