Gov. Wolf: 80% of Pennsylvania School Districts Call for Charter Reform

May 25, 2021

Leaders of more than 400 school districts across Pennsylvania, representing more than 80 percent of school districts in the commonwealth, have called on the General Assembly to pass commonsense reforms to the commonwealth’s broken, outdated charter school law. These changes would hold charter schools accountable for both the quality and cost of the education they provide, while saving school districts and taxpayers nearly $400 million a year.

“Thank you to educators and school board members across Pennsylvania for calling attention to the ways charter school reform will help your communities,” said Gov. Wolf. “My bipartisan reform plan will improve education quality for students, lower costs for schools and taxpayers, and ensure accountability to the public – while still providing charters with the resources they need to provide a high-quality education to their students.”

The governor’s proposal would save school districts an estimated $395 million a year by better aligning charter school funding to actual costs. The savings include $185 million by funding special education in charter schools the same way the state does for all other public schools and $210 million a year by establishing a statewide cyber charter school tuition rate.

The sky-rocketing cost of charter schools is draining funding from traditional public schools and forcing school districts to cut education programs and raise property raises. At the same time, many charter schools are underperforming.

Many cyber charter schools graduate fewer than two-thirds of their students, and all 14 cyber schools in Pennsylvania are designated for federal school improvement, with the vast majority among the lowest 5 percent of public schools. A Stanford University report released in 2019 found overwhelmingly negative results from Pennsylvania’s cyber schools and urged reform by the state.

In addition to saving nearly $400 million per year, Gov. Wolf’s bipartisan, commonsense reform plan:

  • Creates charter school performance standards that hold low-performing charter schools accountable and reward high-performing charters with more flexibility.
  • Limits cyber school enrollment until their educational quality improves.
  • Requires charter schools to have policies to prevent nepotism and conflicts of interest so leaders do not use charter schools for their own financial benefit.
  • Ensures charter schools and their leaders follow requirements of the State Ethics Commission, since they are public officials.

“This is a problem that affects every school district in the commonwealth, and more than 80 percent of school boards joined together to call for change,” said Gov. Wolf. “It’s past time to listen to our schools and fix our charter school law. These commonsense solutions will protect taxpayers, students and the public trust, while improving accountability and quality in education.”

A video of the governor thanking school districts for their commitment to improving charter school accountability is here.

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