The Independent Regulatory Review Commission voted 3-2 last Monday to approve regulatory changes for the state’s 179 charter schools, including 14 cyber charter schools,
The Pennsylvania Chamber supports school choice for families, including charter schools, which educate 170,000 students in the Commonwealth.
In a letter opposing the regulations, Pennsylvania House Education Committee Chairman Curt Sonney, R-Erie, said there were many deficiencies in these regulations and encouraged the Pennsylvania Department of Education to withdraw them. The new regulations approved by the IRRC don’t directly address disagreements over funding, which would likely require a change to state law. Charter schools will get about $3 billion to operate this year.
Among the changes is a standardized application process specifying what information new charter applicants should provide to school districts, which are charged with deciding whether to approve brick-and-mortar charters. It also requires charters to list enrollment capacity by grade level, which some advocates contend is in an attempt to institute grade level caps, a move they believe is not consistent with the statute’s intent.
The regulations also require charter schools to report more detailed financial information; specify that the charters must follow the same accounting and audit practices as school districts; and clarify that charter school trustees are subject to the state Public Official and Employee Ethics Act.
The state legislature has talked about charter school reform for years – deliberations that are likely to continue as many issues remain unresolved. For example, the regulations do not provide guidance on revoking or denying a renewal of a charter or cyber charter school, nor do they clarify how a charter school, regional charter school or cyber charter school could meet the requirement to provide their employees with the same health care benefits as those provided by the authorizing school district.
The legislature now has the option to pass a resolution opposing the regulations; though Gov. Wolf would almost certainly veto it.