Strong and community-supporting Charter Schools should not have to spend time and effort getting their charters reauthorized every five years. SB 1085 allows them a way to get 10 year charters through a performance standard.
SB 1085 begins with, “Within one (1) year of the effective date of this clause, the department shall develop a standard performance matrix to evaluate charter school ENTITY performance.” In fact, this matrix has already been written, implemented and improved for years. The bill lists twelve (12) major categories that should be included in this matrix. All twelve have been included in the current matrix that the Department uses presently. In addition, the Department has numerous additional categories that it includes in its charter re-authorization application. The only difference in SB 1085 is the ability for the Department of Education to go beyond the pass / fail system of re-authorization to a superpass / pass / fail system. With a “superpass,” a charter school would be able to get a 10-year charter over a 5-year charter. However, the implementation of the process is problematic.
The writer(s) of 1085 put within the bill itself a provision that requires the establishment of an Independent Regulatory Review Commission to oversee this matrix process that is designed “to curtail excessive regulation and to require the executive branch to justify its exercise of the authority to regulate before imposing hidden costs upon the economy of Pennsylvania.” (p.83)
In addition to the twelve major categories to be evaluated through this matrix, the Department is to include “other measures of school quality.” If a matrix containing unreachable 10-year goals were implemented, it would take years for the Independent Regulatory Review Commission to correct this. There is no appeal process in the proposed legislation. Even, if there were, no charter school would take the time and expense to appeal an unfair decision.
One potential problem with this new law is the use of “attrition rates” to determine whether a school should get a “superpass” or not (p. 82). Why is the law focused on whether a student moves from one school to another? Traditional school districts are competing to get students to move back from charter schools. When a traditional school improves and the student moves back, should the sending Charter School be penalized?
The bottom line, though, is that this portion of 1085 was written to save well-established Charter Schools a break from having to spend tens of thousands of dollars and thousands of man hours every five years to reapply for their charter. No charter school would be willing to give up 4-12% of its income in order to have a possibility at getting a 10-year charter over a 5-year charter, as this bill (1085) would require.
MYTH / TRUTH prepared by:
Dr. James Hanak, CEO, PA Leadership (Cyber) Charter School