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07/13/2024 12:34 AM
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
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House Co-Sponsorship Memoranda

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House of Representatives
Session of 2023 - 2024 Regular Session


Posted: December 13, 2022 03:08 PM
From: Representative MaryLouise Isaacson
To: All House members
Subject: Charter School Study
The introduction of charter schools dramatically changed the education landscape in Pennsylvania over the past 26 years. In 1997, shortly after passage of the Charter School Law, six charter schools opened in the state. For the 2022-23 school year, that number has skyrocketed to 179 operating charter school entities, including 14 cyber charter schools, educating more than 163,595 children, or more than 8 percent, of Pennsylvania public school students.

Even more notable is that, from the enactment of the charter school law in 1997 up until the 2021-2022 school year, a total of 45 charter school entities closed, including 39 brick-and-mortar charter schools and 6 cyber charter schools. This means that 19% of charter school entities opened since 1997 have closed. 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 for 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. My bill 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.

It’s imperative 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 cosponsoring this vital legislation for our students.

Introduced as HB218