Reforming Pennsylvania’s Charter School Sector

Myth:

On Tom Wolf’s website, he states:

“Reforming Pennsylvania’s Charter School Sector: The state’s charter school sector is one piece of our public education system. It can play an important role in introducing new and innovative teaching practices that can be expanded to local school districts. Unfortunately, Governor Corbett and others in Harrisburg have prioritized mass expansion and deregulation.”


Truth:

Governor Corbett and others (Republicans are assumed) in Harrisburg have done just the opposite.  They have placed brakes on “mass expansion” and have done nothing (zero) to deregulate Pennsylvania Charter Schools.

Each year since Corbett has been governor; charter school reform legislation has been introduced but has failed to pass – to the disappointment of both charter supporters and charter detractors.  Most of this legislation would have provided more regulation and oversight to Pennsylvania’s Charter Schools.  A Google search on “PA charter school reform bills” brings up nearly four million sites to visit.  Consistently, Democrats have voted against this legislation.

Corbett does have control over PA Cyber Charter Schools.  Under his tenure, 21 groups applied to start a PA Cyber Charter School.  Only four were granted.  One of these four remained open for only one year.  The remaining three PA Cyber Charter Schools that were created have attracted a combined total of 796 students.  During this same time period, three Cyber Charter Schools were closed and one was forced by the state to reorganize.  This is not the record of a governor who is prioritizing “mass expansion.”

The real “mass expansion” that was taking place from 2010 to 2014 happened in Philadelphia.  The Philadelphia School District is run by the five member School Reform Commission (SRC).  During this four year period, the SRC granted only a handful of new charters for schools in Philadelphia.  Yet, the charter school student body grew from 30,000 to nearly 60,000.  Why?  Because for the last half century, the Philadelphia School District has been run by School Boards appointed by Democrat Mayors.  Parents and students were demonstrating their frustration with the system with their feet.  The SRC tried to stop this mass migration, so without fanfare, on August 15, 2013, passed the their solution – SRC-1.  This controversial resolution suspended four provisions of the school code, allowing the district to put enrollment caps and performance standards on Philadelphia’s 86 charter schools.

Tom Wolf wants to blame this city mass migration on Tom Corbett.  The SRC has five members appointed by the governor and two appointed by the Democrat Mayor of Philadelphia (Michael Nutter).  The problem is that until 2014, all but one of the five members of the SRC were appointed by either Mayor Nutter (D) or Governor Rendell (D), with each member serving a five year term.

So, any “mass expansion” in Philadelphia has been a direct result of a Democrat controlled school system that families are abandoning in droves.  Any attempts to further “regulate” charter schools statewide have been opposed by Democrats in Harrisburg.  Any attempts to further “regulate” in Philadelphia by the SRC are only as recent as August of 2013.

So, Tom Wolf’s statement should be more accurately stated: “Unfortunately, Democrats in Harrisburg and Philadelphia have prioritized mass expansion of charter schools and the Democrat Party has opposed any attempt to bring about any reasonable regulation of charter schools.”

MYTH / TRUTH prepared by:

Dr. James Hanak, CEO, PA Leadership (Cyber) Charter School