Education Law Center Attorney David Lapp’s December 11, 2014 testimony to the School District of Philadelphia examines the legislative intent of Pennsylvania’s charter school law and how the District should view the latest round of charter school applications.
“There is tremendous promise in the theory of independently-operated public schools that are accountable for equitably serving all kinds of students, achieve superior results, and ultimately increase quality educational options in the larger system of public education. Unfortunately, we do not have such a system in Philadelphia.
Until we do, the district is fully within its legal right to restrict charter school growth. Indeed, in order to comply with the legislative intent of the charter school law and with our state constitutional mandate for a “thorough and efficient system of public education,” the district is legally compelled to restrict charter growth.”
The Education Law Center’s Maura McInerney delivered testimony on Oct. 6, 2014 to the Pennsylvania House Children and Youth Committee highlighting research on the importance of school stability.
“Research shows that one of the most significant barriers to school success is school mobility. It is estimated that school age children in foster care commonly experience nearly three living arrangement changes during their first foster care stay. These children frequently change schools – on average three times in two years, with over a third of young adults in foster care reporting having five or more school changes,” said McInerney. “Children who change schools lose critical academic progress with every school move, which can be devastating to a child’s education,” she said.
Download the complete testimony.
This Pennsylvania Department of Education report offers 13 recommendations to build upon existing efforts and advance change within the state education system to meet the educational needs of Pennsylvania’s children experiencing homelessness.
The findings and recommendations contained in this report were presented to the Governor, the President pro tempore of the Senate, the Minority Leader of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, the chairman and minority chairman of the Education Committee of the Senate and the chairman and minority chairman of the Education Committee of the House of Representatives.
Education Law Center Attorney David Lapp’s March 7, 2014 testimony at the Pennsylvania Auditor General’s hearing highlights significant demographic disparities when comparing brick-and-mortar charter schools as a whole in Philadelphia to the School District of Philadelphia schools.
The Senate Appropriations Committee passed SB 1085 by a 15-11 vote on November 19, 2013. Many major amendments were approved, but none addressed the underlying issues of improving charter school accountability and increasing access for all students that we raised in our initial analysis of SB 1085.
There are several changes to the bill that raise new concerns for ELC.
The Education Law Center testified on Nov. 15, 2013 asking the Pennsylvania Department of Education to utilize its clear legal authority and deny all six cyber charter applications currently under review.
Charter school reform is needed in the Commonwealth and significant legislative effort has gone into two similar bills: HB 618 and SB 1085. The most recent bill to receive attention in the General Assembly is SB 1085.
The Education Law Center supports some of the accountability provisions of SB 1085. However, through the lens of ELC’s charter reform principles and through the lens of the state constitutional mandate to maintain and support a thorough and efficient system of public education, ELC strongly opposes many other provisions of the bill.
The graphs in this analysis were created by the Education Law Center using publicly reported data on public school enrollment demographics. We focused on Pennsylvania’s most heavily-chartered communities — Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Chester-Upland, York City, and Erie City — and on students receiving special education services.
The data demonstrates that, while a number of individual charter schools equitably serve all students, the charter school sector taken as a whole generally underserves these vulnerable student populations. The result is that, with some notable exceptions, these students are often more heavily concentrated in the authorizing school district of residence.
The Law Center believes that important reforms are needed for Pennsylvania’s system of charter schools. However, it is important to note that the legislative process for charter school reform has headed down the wrong path.
(The following analysis highlights proposed changes to the law. These changes were not adopted in 2012 or 2013, but many of them are contained in current charter law proposals before the legislature.)
Charter schools are public schools and must follow laws that protect the rights of public school students. Ensuring that charter schools, as well as traditional public schools, provide quality education to all students is an important part of ELC’s mission.
The following principles, published in 2012, are an outgrowth of ELC’s work with and on behalf of thousands of families throughout Pennsylvania.