Pennsylvania 2016 State Policy Detail
OUTDATED LAW OVERSHADOWS IMPROVEMENTS IN PRACTICE
Pennsylvania’s charter law has not been significantly reformed in nearly 20 years. Robust policy reform will strengthen the foundation for school accountability and authorizer quality and ensure the law keeps pace with the sector’s evolution. The state’s largest authorizer is undertaking initiatives to improve school and authorizer quality, from establishing rigorous measures for renewal and approval to issuing robust annual charter evaluations.
- Endorse professional standards for charter school authorizing. Professional standards bring consistency and transparency to authorizing practices and ensure that strong practices continue regardless of the political environment. This is especially important given the variability of authorizing practices throughout the state and over the history of the charter sector.
- Reform state policies to ensure that charter school closure decisions, once made, can be executed in a timely manner. The multiple layers of administrative and judicial appeal processes established by Pennsylvania law are intended to ensure charter schools have due process when faced with a closure decision. In practice, the system stymies efforts to close even demonstrably, perpetually failing charter schools. Reforms to the appeals timeline and standards of judgment, which could include a default closure policy, can preserve due process while enforcing accountability.
- Reform state protocols to ensure the required annual charter reports include clear information on the academic performance of each charter school. State law empowers the State Secretary of Education to make such a change through rules, regulations, or guidance. This parallels some of the initiatives being undertaken by the largest authorizer and makes sure all authorizers engage in similar performance management practices.
- Create mechanisms for the oversight of all authorizers and, if necessary, intervention.
- Create a statewide alternative authorizer, such as an Independent Chartering Board or an Achievement School District, a statewide recovery school district with limited jurisdiction that acts like an Independent Chartering Board.
- Ensure state policy provides authorizers with meaningful access to necessary charter school data in a timely fashion. Pennsylvania authorizers report some difficulty accessing basic charter school enrollment and performance data necessary to perform adequate charter school oversight. NACSA encourages the state to work with authorizers and charter schools to identify and address any challenges.