Earlier this week, Pennsylvania state senate to approve reforms for Pennsylvania charter schools. These reforms included educational and financial accountability reforms, but removed language from the bill which would add additional powers to the state board which oversees charter schools. The bill also fails to deal with the funding formula for charter schools. However, it is still a great step forward for school choice.
Advocates for reform received at least three main goals. First, the bill increases financial transparency. This allows taxpayers to have more oversight into what happens with public money. Second, it creates a path for “academic accountability” of charter operations. Finally, the bill requires that large budget surpluses must be returned to the district from which the funds came.
These advocates, however, had to compromise on a few issues. One of the largest stumbling blocks was language allowing for a statewide authorizer of public charter schools. Currently, charters can only be granted by the school district in which the new charter school would reside, but most school boards are opposed to the creation of additional charter schools. “Ultimately, we would like to see a statewide authorizer,” Larry Jones, president of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools, said after the vote Tuesday. School choice advocates will be pushing for that legislation again in the spring.
Many conservatives were also fighting for both a parent trigger option and a voucher rather than a tax credit. As Anastasia Przybylski, Pennsylvania field director for FreedomWorks said, “Right now, the biggest issue is that the money doesn’t follow the child.” It’s likely that a lot of the issues surrounding this legislation will end up in court, but we are taking small steps forward to see that this happens, empowering parents to get the best education for their child.