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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2013 - 2014 Regular Session


Posted: June 25, 2013 05:48 PM
From: Senator Lloyd K. Smucker
To: All Senate members
Subject: Charter School Reform
In the near future, I plan to introduce a comprehensive charter school reform bill. This legislation, with some alterations, incorporates the provisions of the bipartisan amendment the Senate approved to Senate Bill 1 last session.
These changes address in a practical manner the major concerns expressed by both charter school backers and critics.
There are changes affecting the application and appeals processes, the funding formula and payment methods, and the inequitable pension double-dip.
The significant new provision grants higher education institutions the power to authorize charter schools. There would be a standard charter application established, charter terms would be extended to five years for initial approval and ten years for renewal, and the requirement for gathering signatures in the community as a condition for appeal is removed.
At the same time, charters and cyber charters will have to comply with open meetings and the state ethics law. There are increased reporting and disclosure requirements. Charters and cyber charters will have to annually undergo an independent audit. Unassigned fund balances are limited, consistent with the manner in which school district reserves are, and any excess will be returned to the sending school districts.
Our state Department of Education is charged with developing an appropriate and acceptable evaluation system for determining how well or how poorly individual charters are performing.

Introduced as SB1085