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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: April 6, 2017 09:59 AM
From: Senator James R. Brewster
To: All Senate members
Subject: Charter School Reform
In the near future, I will be introducing charter school reform legislation. Before property tax reform can be implemented, charter school reforms need to be implemented in order to protect students and tax payers.
My legislation will include financial reforms, upgrading accountability to students and taxpayers, and reforms to the Charter Appeal Board.

The financial reforms in my legislation will include the following:
-Require charter schools to post a surety bond to guarantee that the school can operate through the year;
-Require charter schools to gain the approval of the host school board for the financing of new charter school construction in excess of $1 million if the project is financed through a local industrial development group or taxpayer-backed development agency;
-Compel charters to include a detailed financial impact statement as part of a charter school application;
-Prohibit lease payments to charter school board members;
-Required charters to invoice for actual services provided to special education students;
-Allow traditional public schools to place privately donated funds into special accounts and keep these funds segregated from charter school dollars;
-Return any investment funds or interest accrued by charters not used to pay operating or necessary expenses back to host school district;
-Waive the requirement that charter school students be bussed by a school district if the host school district does not bus its own students; and
-Prohibit the use of taxpayer dollars in advertising about the charter school, its facilities or mission plus halting the use of taxpayer funds for membership in advocacy associations or lobbying.

The accountability reforms in my legislation will include the following:
-Require charters to gain approval from multiple school districts if students are drawn from outside the host district, as a part of the application process;
-Require charters to report quarterly and, in person, to the host school district, with copies of the report sent to all school districts from which students are drawn;
-Increase the percentage of certified teachers from its current 75 percent to 90 percent, while grandfathering the current faculty to lessen disruptions;
-Impose a moratorium on the approval of new cyber charter schools.

My legislation to reform the Charter Appeal Board (CAB) will include the following:
-Limit the CAB to determine whether the school board acted appropriately during the review of an application for a charter;
-Require officials from the PA Department of Education visit the site of a proposed charter school. The report will become part of the charter school's application and become part of the record on appeal to the CAB;
-Mandate that the impact of the charter school on fiscal health of the school district be considered as a part of the appeal.

Introduced as SB670