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PA House approves charter 'reform' bill

Pennsylvania's 20-year-old charter school bill is in need of reform, but a fast-tracked bill passed by the House won't fix the flaws in the current bill.

HB 97 does not address critical charter school funding issues. The bill does not allow school boards to consider the impact of charter expansion on all public schools or curtail excess payments to charter schools for students with disabilities.

HB 97 removes local control of the charter school authorization and renewal process from elected school boards and local communities. Extending charter renewal periods and permitting five-year renewals of charter schools that fail to satisfy academic benchmarks is an impediment to improving charter school accountability and transparency.

HB 97 doesn't address issues of education quality in charter schools or allow school districts to hold charters accountable if they fail to provide students with a quality education. The bill does not address cyber charter school quality, and it creates separate standards that will allow charter schools to play by different rules than district schools.

HB 97 expands the authority of the Charter School Appeals Board by allowing it to approve regional charter districts, called multiple charter school organizations, over the objections of local communities.  At the same time as expanding its authority, HB 97 also drastically changes the membership of the Appeals Board.

HB 97 does nothing to ensure that charters will equitably serve all students and does not address student “push out” in charters. It fails to ensure charters will serve the most vulnerable students in their communities equitably, including those who are homeless, living in foster care and returning from juvenile justice placement. 

HB 97 requires school districts to consider amendments to charters requested by charter operators and allows the charter appeals board to override a district’s decision to deny an 

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