Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Group Calls PA Charter School Bill "Wolf in Sheep's Clothing"

Tom Joseph, Public News Service-PA 

HARRISBURG, Pa. - A wolf in sheep's clothing: That's how a Pennsylvania public education advocacy group describes a bill in the state legislature that would change the way charter schools are authorized to operate. 

According to Susan Gobreski, executive director of Education Voters of Pennsylvania, her biggest concern revolves around Senate Bill 1085, allowing an institution of higher learning to authorize charter schools.

"Private authorizers would actually take the power from school boards away and give it to entities that aren't part of the community or aren't accountable to the community, and yet it would still send them the bill," she warned.

Gobreski does say there can be a place for charter schools if the education formula as a whole is better thought out.

"The issue is whether or not we have a good system," she said, adding that that means, "Whether or not our state funding system is set up so that charter schools and traditional community schools are able to coexist without taking funding from one set of children to give it to another."

Gobreski said S.B. 1085 doesn't address what it is that needs to be changed most about the way charter schools in Pennsylvania operate currently, and that is "making sure that they are accountable, making sure that what's happening in charter schools is transparent, making sure that communities can plan and that communities have a say in the role that charter schools play in their communities."

Backers of S.B. 1085 say it places greater emphasis on charter-school performance and increases accountability for charter school authorizers. Gobreski however said the legislation also removes enrollment caps, which means communities lose more control over how those institutions function within their community and allows uncontrolled expansion of charter schools.

See the bill in full at bit.ly/I01i9B.

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