The charter school reform bill SB1085 is on the PA Senate’s calendar today. This bill does not provide the reform that we need and will actually cause more harm to public schools. [Please see “Killer Weeds” for all the gory details.] Have you called your state senator yet about this legislation? Did you just mutter “no” to yourself? Would it help if I begged?
Pleeeeeease????? Seriously, we need you to call your state senator and urge them to vote no on SB1085, which will remove local control over your tax dollars. Click here now to find contact information for your state senator. Here’s what SB1085 would do [from Keystone State Education Coalition]:
- allow colleges and universities to authorize new charter schools without local approval, even though they have no financial stake or accountability to the public for the school’s performance.
- eliminate enrollment caps on charter schools, allowing for the unfettered expansion of charter schools in PA.
- increase the initial term of a charter from 3 years to 5 years, and allow a charter school to be granted a 10 year renewal, which would slice accountability in half.
- allow two or more charters to consolidate and transfer oversight to the PA Department of Education, while local taxpayers would still pay the tuition.
- remove the provision that requires charter applications to be evaluated based on the extent to which the school may serve as a model for other public schools (which was the original purpose of charter schools).
All of this matters because the state is actively foisting new charter schools on Pittsburgh, even after our school board has voted against them. This is adding millions to the district’s budget deficit just as we are being told we must close more schools in our communities in order to address that deficit. We have a looming $46 million budget gap, but we are currently spending $53 million to send 10% of the district’s kids to charter schools. [See “When Charter Cause Harm and Leaders Fail to Lead”] I am not suggesting that we simply close charter schools – that’s not legally possible and it’s not as simple as that. But we ought to be asking what our students are getting from charter schools.
While there are certainly exceptions, on the whole Pennsylvania’s charter schools have a terrible track record of student performance. The latest national research found that charter students in our state cover 29 fewer days of reading material on average, and 50 fewer days of math than traditional public schools. That puts Pennsylvania in the bottom three states in the country. [Stanford CREDO, National Charter School Study 2013] The state’s cyber charter schools are particularly problematic, with not a single one making Adequate Yearly Progress last year. [PA Dept. of Education, Charter School PSSA Performance] And don’t forget that the state Auditor General last year found that cyber charter schools are over-charging school districts $1 million every single day. [See “One Million Per Day”]
We desperately need charter reform. But SB1085 is not it. Please call your state senator now! And if you have a few minutes more to spare, please consider calling any or all of these Senate officers:
Majority Leader Senator Dominic Pileggi (717) 787-4712 firstname.lastname@example.org
Majority Whip Senator Patrick Browne (717) 787-1349 email@example.com
Majority Caucus Chair Senator Michael Waugh (717) 787-3817 firstname.lastname@example.org
Majority Caucus Secretary Senator Robert Robbins (717) 787-1322 email@example.com
Majority Appropriations Chair Senator Jake Corman (717) 787-1377 firstname.lastname@example.org
Majority Caucus Administrator Senator John Gordner (717) 787-8928 email@example.com
Majority Policy Committee Chair Senator Edwin Erickson (717) 787-1350 firstname.lastname@example.org