Against HB 530 — Once More With Feeling

Marc Stier |

HB 530, a revision of the laws that govern charter schools, has reared its ugly head again. We continue to oppose it.

School districts in Pennsylvania contain a mix of traditional public schools and charter schools. Some local school districts want to add charters schools. Many do not. All of them should be empowered to evaluate the best way to educate students in their respective districts.

Unfortunately, provisions in HB530 will remove much of the supervisory and decision-making authority from local school districts in every corner of the state. Since charter schools receive funding from local school districts, the creation of new seats in charter schools without school board supervision and control diminishes the ability of school districts to establish and manage their budgets. That could result in the underfunding of traditional schools or significant local tax increases. That is why we oppose this legislation, which that permits charter schools to enroll new students, add grade levels, and recruit students from outside the school district without the approval of the local school board.

We also oppose the provision of the legislation that creates an evaluation system for charter schools that makes it more difficult to compare charter school performance with that of traditional schools and undermines the ability of local school boards to hold charter schools accountable for financial management and educational performance.

And we oppose the creation of a charter school advisory commission that does not represent all the stakeholders in the education of our children.

Pennsylvania has what is widely regarded as one of the worst charter school laws in the country, precisely because it does not give school boards the tools to regulate and hold charter schools accountable for the education they provide (or do not provide) to their students. But rather than fix the lack of transparency or accountability for charter schools in current laws, or fix the funding provisions that drive local school districts with many charters schools into distress, or fix how we provide funding to charter schools for special education, HB 530 makes the law worse.