Senator Lloyd Smucker (R-13) is introducing a resolution directing the Legislative Budget & Finance Committee, a highly regarded analytical agency, to study the issue of alternative authorizers and produce a report by the end of November.
“I am hoping this study will establish a factual foundation upon which we can build informed and thoughtful conclusions in the debate over charter schools. The search for perspective is wide open. The committee is charged with seeking input from all interested parties, whether those views are positive, negative, or neutral, and reviewing the experience in other states. They are to take into account the key concerns – performance, accountability, finances, and impact on school districts,” Smucker stated.
According to the resolution, LBFC will study a variety of alternative authorizers including higher education authorizers, statewide authorizers and multiple charter organizations.
“One of the chief criticisms coming from the school community is that higher education institutions do not have a financial stake in the matter. That is not entirely true. Colleges and universities are spending a great deal of money on remedial work for Pennsylvania high school graduates. And with many schools seeing a drop in enrollment, the competition to attract qualified students is increasing,” Smucker pointed out.
Smucker noted that Pennsylvania was in the forefront in adopting a charter school law, so it is not surprising that experience has revealed some flaws in the law. “In the places where charter schools are operating, it is widely conceded that accountability measures must be put in place and that the funding formula needs to be fixed. We also know that some areas are underserved, not because of a lack of parental and community interest, but because the school boards have made it nearly impossible for applicants to gain approval.”