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Some More Sneaky Charter School Business…Right?

HARRISBURG (March 29) – In an effort to continue providing additional educational opportunities for families while maintaining a level of necessary accountability, Senators Andy Dinniman and Jeffrey Piccola recently introduced legislation to overhaul Pennsylvania’s current laws governing charter and cyber charter schools.

Senator Anthony Williams, President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati, Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, Senator Mike Folmer, Senator Richard Alloway, Senator Ted Erickson, Majority Appropriations Chair Jake Corman, Senator Don White, Senator Bob Robbins, Senator John Eichelberger, Senator Mike Stack, Senator Mike Waugh, Senator Stewart Greenleaf, and Senator John Rafferty all joined as co-sponsors to the bill.

Senate Bill 904 would incorporate a number of long-overdue reforms to facilitate the creation and continued operation of Pennsylvania’s charter and cyber charter schools yet also provide proper accountability measures, according to Dinniman and Piccola.

“The ultimate objective of this bill is to help school choice reach its full potential here in Pennsylvania,” Dinniman, minority chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said. “It is always my goal to create school policy that combines education excellence and taxpayer accountability, and Senate Bill 904 does just that.”

“Our bipartisan legislation is the working product of two public hearings before the Senate Education Committee and several years of collaborative efforts between lawmakers and various groups, and I’m pleased to see that this issue also has the support of Governor Corbett. No doubt, it strikes the ideal balance: expanding opportunities for parents and their children but also putting more checks in place to ensure that our charter schools properly serve Pennsylvania students for years to come,” said Piccola, majority chairman of the committee.

The legislation would create a statewide commission, independent from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, to be charged with oversight of charter and cyber charter school functions, such as the ability to serve as a depository of best practices. The commission would also serve as an independent authorizer of charter schools. Additionally, an advisory committee would be created to review and make recommendations to the Legislature regarding the thorny issues involving the funding of charters.

Senate Bill 904 would also allow institutions of higher education to approve the creation of a charter school, and an intermediate unit or local board of school directors would be allowed to create or convert an existing public school into a charter school. Moreover, the bill would modify the application and appeals procedures for the state’s charter schools by streamlining administrative processes by which these schools are formed, evaluated, and renewed.

Under this comprehensive legislation, greater checks and balances would be established on the Commonwealth’s charter schools. Some of these provisions include mandating additional oversight and accountability on administrators and board members by requiring employees to adhere to the state’s Ethics Act and establishing clear prohibitions against any conflicts of interest.

Members in the House of Representatives have unveiled similar legislation sponsored by Representatives Thomas Killion, Tony Payton Jr., and Jim Marshall.

The Senate Education Committee will be holding a public hearing on Senate Bill 904 on April 13.

For more information contact Senator Dinniman’s District Office at (610) 692-2112, or e-mail acirucci@pasenate.com.

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