Last month, PA Independent highlighted Senate Bill 1156, which would create a committee to monitor Pennsylvania charter schools. This was in response to the mismanagement of a number of charter schools in the Philadelphia area. In December, former board president of the Philadelphia Academy Charter School (PACS), Rosemary DiLacqua, was sentenced to just over a year in jail for honest services mail fraud. She and co-defendant Kevin O’Shea, who was sentenced in October, are responsible for over $910,000 in restitution. O’Shea is the former CEO of PACS.
While some charters have had accountablity problems, it is important to remember that charter schools receive less funding than school districts, generally serve low-income and disadvantaged students, largely outperform school districts serving the same type of students, and can be held accountable in ways district schools cannot.
According to the Pennsylvania Coalition of Charter Schools (PCCS), there are about 130 charter schools in the state, created since the passing of 1997 legislation authorizing charter schools PA. 74% of PA charter schools passed Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) standards for attendance and graduation rates, performance, and participation. 22% did not pass these 2008-2009 AYP standards, and 5% are “making progress.”
The National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) has published its 2009 guidelines for evaluating charter schools, which offers recommendations for how states should monitor charter schools, cautions evaluators to avoid any entangling political influence, and encourages them to award only well-performing schools with grants and support. Indeed the role of charter authorizers is a key to education quality (see article on page 24 of the Dec. 2009 Inside ALEC newsletter).
Revising Pennsylvania’s charter law to allow alternative charter authorizers would help improve a crucial aspect of education choice in Pennsylvania.
The Center for Education Reform has more resources about charter schools.