|In the near future, I plan to introduce legislation that builds off the comprehensive charter reform bills – House Bills 355 (Rep. Reese), 356 (Rep. Dowling) and 357 (Rep. Topper) – that passed the House last session with bipartisan support. Pennsylvania’s Charter School Law is antiquated, and stakeholders from school districts and public charter schools agree that changes need to be made to address our schools’ and students’ current needs.
The legislation will improve several provisions in the Charter School law, including:
- Strengthening the ethical requirements for charter schools, regional charter schools, and cyber charter schools (“charter school entities”).
- Allowing charter school entities to administer their standardized tests (PSSA, PASA and Keystone Exams) via electronic means.
- Reinstating the Charter School Reimbursement line-item in the 2021-22 state budget to offset the financial impact that school districts have felt with nearly 170,000 students now enrolled in public charter schools.
- Standardizing the process for the creation of new charter schools, renewing charter agreements and amending charter agreements. This includes standard applications and timelines to ensure equity and predictability for school districts and public charter schools.
- Clarifying the enrollment process and procedures to ensure every student in Pennsylvania has equal access to a public charter school, as prescribed in the law.
- Providing public charter schools with greater autonomy to determine where their students are educated and the configuration of their school buildings.
- Encouraging collaboration between school districts, charter schools, career and technical centers, intermediate units and post-secondary institutions by removing structural barriers in the law that stifle the sharing of innovative practices, cost-saving initiatives and professional development/diversification strategies.
- Allowing school districts, brick-and-mortar charter school and regional charter school to implement the lessons learned during the pandemic and offer their students virtual instruction without being required to establish a cyber charter school.
With the growing popularity of public charter schools, now is the time to update and improve Pennsylvania’s Charter School Law to ensure that this essential public school option is available to every student and held to the same high standards as school districts. I ask you to join me in co-sponsoring this legislation and continue the collaborative work from last session.