Pennsylvania charter schools blast proposed rules; lawmaker says ‘adversarial’ tone of debate doesn’t help kids

The Morning Call by Ford Turner, October 20, 2021

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania charter school leaders on Wednesday ripped into proposed new regulations from the state, with one leader calling them “death by a thousand cuts” and several saying changes should come from the Legislature, not the Wolf administration. Lawrence Jones Jr., CEO of Richard Allen Preparatory Charter School in Philadelphia, said the proposal would hurt families in his school’s impoverished neighborhood. Renee Gordon, chief administrative office at Charter School of Excellence in Erie, said the proposal “picks winners and losers” in public education. They spoke at a Wednesday Senate Education Committee hearing on regulations proposed by the Department of Education. There were 177 charter schools and cyber charter schools authorized in Pennsylvania last year. An estimated $3 billion publicly paid tuition flows to them annually through school districts. Many at the hearing acknowledged a need for revised regulations. An outside attorney for the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, Allison Petersen, said more than 80% of the state’s 500 school districts favor charter school reform. But Petersen said the regulatory process — changing charter school rules administratively, rather than via the Legislature — had limits. The proposal, she said, is, “a substantial step forward but it is a first step.” The Charter School Law was enacted in 1997 and, according to the state, has remained largely unchanged aside from 2001 amendments that allowed for cyber charters.

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