Wolf administration proposes charter school regulations to benefit students and taxpayers



HARRISBURG – Governor Tom Wolf announced on Friday proposed new regulations to increase transparency and accountability of charter schools.

“We have a responsibility to all students, parents and taxpayers to fix our broken charter schools law,” Governor Wolf said. “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.

“These regulations, combined with my bipartite and common sense legislative package, provide essential consistency, transparency and accountability, while preserving school choice.”

The proposed regulations clarify six areas of Pennsylvania Charter Schools Act:

  • Requirements for charter school applications: Establishes requirements for charter school applications, allowing school districts to license brick and mortar charter schools and the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) allowing cyber charter schools to maintain schools to high academic, fiscal and administrative standards, ensures that charter schools will fairly serve all students; and provides consistent application expectations.
  • Non-discriminatory registration policies: Requires charter schools to publish their non-discrimination enrollment policy on their website and in student application so families and taxpayers know how admission preferences are considered and weighted.
  • Ethical standards for boards of directors: Clarifies that charter school administrators are subject to the law on the ethics of civil servants and state employees, deals with conflicts of interest and sets penalties for violations. The same requirements already apply to school districts.
  • Financial and auditing standards: Requires charter schools to use accounting principles and auditing standards as school districts already do. This will facilitate the review of annual reports and financial records for school districts and the POE.
  • Clarification of the redirect process: Describes the process for reconciling disputes regarding school district payments to charter schools for student tuition.
  • Parity of health care benefits for charter school employees: Ensures that charter school staff receive adequate health care. The Charter Schools Act requires that charter schools provide the same health care benefits as the licensing school district. The regulation specifies that when a charter school serves more than one school district, the school district in which the charter school’s administrative office is located is the comparison district.

The proposed new rules are part of the governor’s strategy to deal with the state’s charter schools law, which is considered the worst in the country. In addition to regulation, the governor is supporting legislation that would save Pennsylvania school districts an estimated $ 395 million by reducing charter school costs, holding underperforming charter schools accountable, and restoring public trust. with increased transparency of for-profit companies that operate charter schools.

According to the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials, taxpayers spent $ 2.1 billion on charter schools last year, and between 2013 and 2019, 44 cents of every $ 1 in new property taxes went to schools in charter.

The governor’s common sense legislative plan, SB 27 and HB 272, seeks to save $ 185 million per year by funding special education in charter schools, just as the state does for all other public schools. He hopes to save an additional $ 210 million per year by establishing a statewide tuition rate for charter cyber schools.

The Ministry of Education has submitted the draft charter school regulations to the General Assembly, the Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) and the Legislative Reference Office. The case is published in the PA Bulletin, and there is currently a 30-day public comment period that ends on October 18. The department encourages all students, parents, educators, other stakeholders and the general public interested to submit their comments to RA-EDCharterRegs@pa.gov.

Following this public comment period, the ministry will update the proposals and submit a final version of the regulations to the IRRC for the final step of the state regulatory review process.

The Wolf administration expects the regulations to come into effect before 2023.

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