House charter package contains significant concerns

A package of bills addressing charter school issues is being considered in the House of Representatives. Two of the bills in the package enable charter school expansion without appropriate oversight by the authorizing school districts. Further, the package fails to address needed funding reforms.

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Bills of concern:

House Bill 356: Charter school expansion without oversight – PSBA opposes

House Bill 356 (Rep. Dowling, R-Fayette) gives charter schools the right of first refusal to purchase or lease school buildings no longer in use by a school district. It also allows a charter school to operate at more than one location within the authorizing school district(s) if the written charter does not limit enrollment.

House Bill 357: Charter applications/amendments, expansion without oversight – PSBA opposes

House Bill 357 (Rep. Topper, R-Bedford) makes significant changes to the process used to apply to open a charter school, amend an existing written charter, and the admission and enrollment of students in a charter school.

Issues of concern with House Bill 356:

  • Allows charter schools to expand to multiple locations without any oversight or approval from the authorizing school district(s), which have the duty to evaluate whether the charter school can meet various compliance requirements.
  • Any decision to sell or lease a school building should originate with the school board.

Issues of concern with House Bill 357:

  • Also enables the expansion of charter schools without appropriate oversight of the authorizing school district(s).
  • Gives the Charter Appeal Board (CAB) jurisdiction over charter amendments, adding another layer of bureaucracy, undermining the authority of charter authorizers, and leading to costly litigation. Charter amendments should not be subject to CAB review.
  • There is no limit on what areas can be addressed through an amendment or when an amendment may be sought. This defeats the purpose of the initial application and wastes school district time and resources to evaluate such requests.

Also of concern:

  • Expansion would also occur regardless of the quality of the educational program provided by the charter school. Granting underperforming charter schools unfettered expansion would be a disservice to students and taxpayers.
  • The resulting enrollment expansions would have a substantial impact on school district budgets, as well as a direct impact on transportation programs.
  • Critical issues regarding funding are not addressed, including: overpayments to charter schools for special education students; calculation of cyber charter tuition rates; the tuition reconciliation process, and other important funding issues. Without addressing any of these funding concerns, this package misses the mark on creating meaningful charter reform.