Pennsylvania: Charter Sharks Zooming in for the Kill with HB 530

Diane Ravitch, 10/25/16

Pennsylvania became an ATM for the charter industry under Republican Governor Tom Corbett. He is gone now, but the legislature remains indebted to the fat, happy charter owners. Many public school districts are on the brink of bankruptcy due to the rapacious charters that snare their students with deceptive advertising. Pennsylvania has more virtual charter schools than any other state, despite the fact that study after study (including one by CREDO, funded by the Daltons) has shown that virtual charters are educational disaster zones. Students who enroll in them don’t learn anything, but the virtual charter industry is rolling in dough. Two different virtual charter leaders have been indicted for theft in Pennsylvania; one admitted stealing millions of dollars, the other saw her trial dismissed because of age and infirmity but was indicted for theft of millions.

Into this land of struggling public schools and thriving charters comes a new legislative plot to privatize and monetize public school funding. It is called HB530. Under the (usual) guise of “reform,” the bill would open the door to the vaults that hold taxpayer money meant for children and welcome the charters to help themselves.

HB530 is a blank check for a rapacious, greedy industry.

Lawrence Feinberg of the Keystone State Education Coalition wrote this post, “20 Reasons to Vote No on PA HB530.”

Here are a few of his reasons:

Pennsylvania taxpayers now spend more than $1.4 billion on charter and cyber charter schools annually, in addition to funding the state’s traditional public schools. The current “rob from public school Peter to pay charter school Paul” system drains money from traditional public schools, forcing districts to cut programs and services for the students who remain. In 2011, the charter reimbursement line was eliminated from the state budget. It provided state funding to districts for the costs and financial exposure resulting from the addition of charter schools.

Legislators are now considering House Bill 530, which would bring much-needed reform to the charter school law that was written in 1997. The bill has several helpful provisions, but the harm that it does far outweighs the good. Here are 20 reasons that the legislature should vote against this measure.

#HB530 does not provide significant accountability to taxpayers for payments made to charter school entities.

#HB530 would create a Charter School Funding Commission that would consider establishing an independent state-level board to authorize charter school entities, bypassing any local decision-making by school boards and their communities.

#HB530 further limits the ability of communities to negotiate the role of charters locally. The decisions about how, when, and where to expand them should be made by those who have the information and expertise to do so in ways that improve education.

#HB530 is an entirely unwarranted intervention in the local governance of school districts. It would remove local control of tax dollars from Pennsylvania taxpayers and their elected school directors.

#HB530 sets no limits to money that charters can drain from local school districts, eliminating districts’ capability to plan and budget.

#HB530 is a vehicle for the Pennsylvania legislature to have local taxpayers pay for unlimited charter expansion.

#HB530 would let charter operators expand and add grades without any local input or authorization, regardless of performance.

#HB530 would let charters expand by enrolling students from outside of the district in which it is located.

If you want to save public education in Pennsylvania, contact your legislators now.

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