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House of Representatives
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: June 28, 2017 12:27 PM
From: Representative James R. Roebuck, Jr.
To: All House members
Subject: Charter School Study on the successes and failures of charter school entities over the past 20 years.
In the near future, I plan to introduce a resolution that would direct the State Board of Education to conduct a comprehensive study of charter school entities, specifically on what we’ve learned from the best practices of our high performing, successful charter schools and the shortcomings of our unsuccessful, failing charter schools.

The introduction of charter schools dramatically changed the education landscape in Pennsylvania over the past 20 years. In 1997, shortly after passage of the Charter School Law, six charter schools opened in the state. By the 2015-16 school year, that number has skyrocketed to 175 operating charter school entities, including 14 cyber charter schools, educating more than 130,000 children, or 7 percent, of Pennsylvania students.

Even more notable is that since the enactment of the charter school law in 1997 a total of 38 charter school entities have closed including 33 brick-and-mortar charter schools and 5 cyber charter schools. This means that 18% of charter school entities opened since 1997 have closed. Two other charter schools in Philadelphia are in the process of having their charters revoked by the School Reform Commission. There are variety of reasons for the closure of these charter school entities including academic, financial and operational shortcomings that need to be explored and brought to light.

While supporters continue to praise charter school entities for providing additional opportunities for low-income students or others whose needs aren’t being met by traditional public schools, critics say they fail to share best-practices for educating students, lack appropriate oversight and place a financial burden on cash-strapped districts.

The original intent of the charter school law that passed in 1997 was to “encourage the use of different and innovative teaching methods” and to improve student learning that could be replicated by other public schools.”

Essentially, charter school entities were intended to be innovative labs of learning where teachers and administrators, not bound by the same federal and state academic mandates as regular public schools, could significantly improve student learning. The law specifically states that Charter schools are to “serve as a model for other public schools.”

In order to improve the existing charter school law I believe it is necessary for us to further explore the best practices of our high performing charter school entities and the unsuccessful practices of our low performing and closed charter school entities across the state. That’s why it’s important for the State Board of Education to conduct this comprehensive study so that we can learn from our best charter school entities about those different and innovative teaching methods that can improve student learning and increase learning opportunities in all public schools for all of our students.

Please join me in co-sponsoring this resolution. Thank you in advance for your consideration.

Introduced as HR578