Proposal to change Pa. charter school rules runs into resistance

    Some education advocates are criticizing a Pennsylvania Senate proposal to revamp how public charter schools start, expand, and receive funding — because it would remove a check on the growth of the alternative schools.

    A plan before a key legislative committee would allow charter schools to increase their enrollment without the approval of the school district that first authorized their charter.

    School districts are the proper entities to authorize charter schools because the districts must ensure that all students are educated, including the students with the greatest needs, said David Lapp, a former charter school teacher and now a staff attorney with the Education Law Center.

    “School districts are … charged exactly with that under the law, that their job is to ensure that all students receive a quality education,” Lapp said. “When charters expand without any management, it concentrates those student groups more heavily in school districts and gives them less funding and less ability to adequately serve them.”

    The proposal’s sponsor, state Sen. Lloyd Smucker, R-Lancaster, said the plan is meant to make it easier for charters to grow, while increasing accountability — for instance, requiring audits.

    The bill ensures the schools will accept at-risk students, he said.

    Such language must be more explicit, according to the Education Law Center.

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