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House of Representatives
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session

MEMORANDUM

Posted: June 1, 2015 05:11 PM
From: Representative James R. Roebuck, Jr.
To: All House members
Subject: Comprehensive Charter School Reform Legislation
 
As you are aware, Governor Tom Wolf set forth an ambitious Education funding agenda and as part of his historical proposal he hopes to implement reforms on the charter sector -- specifically, funding for cyber charter schools, which currently receive funding at levels on par with what is spent by a students' home district.

In an effort to build upon the Governors leadership on this issue, I intend to introduce legislation that will make comprehensive changes to the Charter and Cyber Charter School Law. While I do support charter school entities, I believe major revisions are needed regarding the governance, financing and accountability of these public schools. I believe my legislation, which includes provisions passed in HB 530, coupled with the Governor’s proposal will result in significant savings to our school districts and provide much needed reforms to the Charter School law.

A detailed summary of the major revisions are below.

Governance of Charter and Cyber Charter Schools:

  • Revises the Charter School Entity application for the initial and renewal procedure by requiring the creation of a standardized application to be used by all applicants throughout the state.
  • Requires the SBE in consultation with PDE to create a standardized enrollment form that is to be used by all eligible students to apply to a charter school.
  • Prohibits the consumption, purchase or sale of alcohol in any charter school facility and proscribes penalties for violations of this prohibition.
  • Allows two or more high-performing charter schools to consolidate into a Multiple Charter School Organization that will be managed by a single board of trustees and a single administrator.
Financing of Charter and Cyber Charter Schools:

  • Establishes a funding commission to consider and make recommendations concerning funding and other matters related to charter schools, the commission is convened and the members are appointed by the Governor.
  • Sets a Cyber Charter School tuition rate per student enrolled of $5,950, similar to the Governor’s proposal, by basing cyber charter regular tuition rates on the highest-spending of comparable high-performing online education programs offered by intermediate units.
  • Goes beyond Governor Wolf’s public school code bill to ensure fairness in special education funding for both charter AND cyber charter schools by applying the special education formula recommended by the Special Education Funding Commission to both charter AND cyber charter schools.
  • Limits the amount special education funding that a Charter School Entity receives per student to the total per pupil expenditure for special educational services incurred by the school district.
  • Sets limits on charter and cyber charter schools’ allowable unassigned fund balances, and providing for the refund of excess fund balances to tuition-paying school districts.
  • Requires a reconciliation of charter school expenditures through an annual audit, and a charter school entity will be required to refund any revenue in excess of its audited total expenditures to each school district that paid tuition.
  • Limits Charter School Management Organizations Fees by limiting the amount of overhead that charter management organizations are permitted to charge a charter school entity to no more than 5% of the tuition charger per student enrolled.
  • Eliminates additional non-instructional services from charter school tuition payments, providing savings to school districts.
Financial and Academic Accountability of Charter and Cyber Charter Schools:

  • Prohibits lease overpayments by prohibiting individuals related to the charter school entity or educational management service provider of a charter school from receiving any payments for approved reimbursable annual rental for leases of buildings or portions of buildings for charter school use.
  • Improves accountability of all charter school administrators and board members by tying their performance to the Pa Ethics Act and other standards of conduct recommended by a national charter school law model.
  • Provides adequate transparency and financial accountability for contractors, including for-profit management companies that provide management, educational or administrative services to charter school entities. Also requires these entities to publicly disclose the use of any monies received from a charter school as well as subject those funds to audit by the state.
  • Requires charter schools to amend their current charter if after approval they seek to contract any services of the charter school including, management, educational or administrative services to an educational service provider.
  • Requires Charter School Entities to ensure their students are in compliance with the compulsory attendance laws and makes them responsible for instituting truancy proceedings as stated in the Public School Code.
  • Requires charter school entities to be included in the current rating system used for all public school employees beginning in the 2017-2018 school year.This will ensure that Charter and Cyber Charter teachers, principals and certified support staff are evaluated under the same system of evaluation as other public schools.
  • Maintains the Charter School Appeal Board’s membership to what is currently in law; this board has demonstrated a balanced and fair appeal’s processes and changing the membership to a pro charter advantage would be unfair to the process.
If you have any questions regarding this legislation, please contact my office at 717-787-7044.

Thank you for your support.




Introduced as HB1328