Statement: Gov. Wolf’s Charter Accountability Plan

Today, Governor Tom Wolf will unveil his plans to alter accountability mechanisms for Pennsylvania's charter schools.

However, Gov. Wolf's strategy is not as much about accountability as it is his administration's attempt to quell the growth of charters despite their popularity among Pennsylvania families.

Nathan Benefield, Commonwealth Foundation Vice President and COO, issued the following statement in response to Gov. Wolf's charter reform strategy:

Gov. Wolf’s charter school overhaul would cut funding for charters, cap enrollment, and place a moratorium on new cyber charter schools, even as tens of thousands of students are on waiting lists for charter schools across the state. In short, it would deny families the schooling options they seek.

Under the guise of accountability, Gov. Wolf is putting restraints on educational progress. This charter strategy along with his June veto of tax credit scholarship expansion legislation makes it is clear that his administration is treating the 350,000 students in charter and private schools like second class citizens. Instead, he should be helping to create an educational system that provides diverse opportunities for all students.

He cites rising charter school funding as the catalyst for change, but charter school funding is going up because enrollment is up as more parents choose charter schools for their kids. Public charter schools actually receive less funding per student then traditional public school – about 80% of what school districts spend.

Today’s announcement is further proof that his administration’s definition of accountability varies by school type. For under-performing district-run schools, his solutions are to move away from standardized testing, water down tests, and increase funding. But for charter schools, Wolf proposes funding cuts and halting their growth through the heavy hand of the law, regardless of performance or even what families desire.

The governor’s motivation is clear: He wants to appease teachers’ union leaders. Unlike most charters and private schools, district schools are unionized. Under contracts with the AFT and NEA/PSEA, school districts collect campaign contributions for teachers’ union PACs. Since 2013, Wolf received $4 million from teachers' unions.

This is a politically shrewd announcement from our governor. It's also disastrous for families and children.

Commonwealth Foundation experts are available for comment. Please contact Michael Torres at 850-619-2737 or [email protected] to schedule an interview.

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