Roebuck and colleagues announce charter school reform package

HARRISBURG, May 3 – Today, Rep. James Roebuck, D-Phila., alongside other House Democrats, unveiled a package of eight charter school reform bills designed to treat all Pennsylvania public schools – both traditional and charter – and their students equally under law.

"I believe we can get bipartisan support for these bills and improve accountability in the charter school system,” Roebuck said. “Our goal is to treat these schools equally under the law, so that we can make sure tax dollars are being used efficiently.”

Roebuck, Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee, introduced H.B. 1330 that would end conflicts of interest in tax-funded payments for charter school leases.

The seven other bills in the package are:

  • H.B. 1329, introduced by Rep. Mike Carroll, D-Luzerne, would bring charter schools in line with school districts by imposing limits on the surpluses that charter schools may accumulate.
  • H.B. 1332, introduced by Rep. Mark Longietti, D-Mercer, would limit charter school management organization fees to no more than 5 percent of tuition charged per student enrolled. Besides limiting overhead, Longietti said his bill would require much more disclosure of financial documentation from for-profit and nonprofit school management organizations.
  • H.B. 1331, introduced by Rep. Dan Miller, D-Allegheny, would phase in a final recommendation of the Special Education Funding Commission to fix how Pennsylvania pays for high-cost special education students. Currently, charter and cyber schools essentially get penalized if they accept high-cost special education students. At the same time, in the 2012-13 school year, charter schools received nearly $200 million more than necessary to meet the special education needs of their students.
  • H.B. 1333, introduced by Rep. Steve McCarter, D-Montgomery, would require charter schools to use the same teacher evaluation system already in use at other public schools. This would take effect in the 2019-20 school year and would allow parents and taxpayers to compare "apples to apples."  
  • H.B. 894, introduced by Rep. Mike Schlossberg, D-Lehigh, would address the millions of dollars' worth of ads for charter and cyber charter schools, which would have to stop advertising "free" tuition or transportation. Their ads would have to start disclosing that instructional and transportation costs are paid for by tax dollars, much like the existing requirement for ads by state agencies.
  • H.B. 168, introduced by Rep. Maria Donatucci, D-Phila./Delaware, would provide a clear process for administrators to follow when closing a traditional or charter school building. Her bill would also allow the state to develop a database of unused or underused school facilities to ensure their potential sale or re-use benefits the taxpayers who paid for them.
  • H.B. 1334, introduced by Rep. Maureen Madden, D-Monroe, would require school districts and charter schools to transfer student records to each other within 10 days of receiving the request, and this would include attendance records. This has been an issue in her district in the Poconos, in Philadelphia and elsewhere.