Pennsylvania governor reforming state’s 22-year-old charter school law

Pennsylvania

Gov. Tom Wolf is also proposing legislation to establish performance standards

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WKBN) – More than 130,000 students in Pennsylvania attend charter schools, which there are almost 200 of in the state. But, Governor Tom Wolf says the state’s charter school law is one of the worst in the country, so he’s looking to make changes.

This week, Wolf announced sweeping reforms to the state’s 22-year-old charter school law.

“We must update our flawed and outdated charter law for the benefit of every student and every taxpayer in the commonwealth,” he said.

In Pennsylvania, students are free to enroll in charter schools and school districts are required to pay the tuition, which last year totaled more than $1.8 billion.

“I want to create a level playing field for all taxpayer-funded public schools,” Wolf said.

The governor is taking a number of executive actions — allowing school districts to lower enrollment at some charter schools and holding them to the same transparency standards as school districts.

“Accountability, fairness, equity and quality, and transparency are things we can all get behind,” said Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera.

Wolf is also proposing legislation to establish performance standards and a moratorium on new charter schools in the state.

“It seems like Governor Wolf is putting up a wall to prevent families from leaving district schools to choose charter schools,” said Nathan Benefield, vice president and chief operating officer of the Commonwealth Foundation, a conservative group.

Benefield says there are thousands of students across Pennsylvania on waiting lists to attend these schools.

“Finding a better quality education, potentially safer schools, closer schools — there’s many benefits and many reasons why parents would choose a charter school,” he said.

Benefield believes the governor’s actions take away a parent’s right to choose where their children go to school and may possibly be in violation of state law.

“State law says you can’t have enrollment caps. The governor can’t change the law with an executive order,” he said.

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