governor wolf charter schools

Gov. Wolf Acts Unilaterally to Stifle Charter Schools

March 22, 2022, Harrisburg, Pa. — On Monday, the Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) approved Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed regulations for Pennsylvania charter schools. The governor pushed the new rules through the regulatory process despite the Pennsylvania House and Senate Education committees voting to reject them.

“Wolf once again acted unilaterally to circumvent the legislature,” said Senior Vice President of the Commonwealth Foundation Nathan Benefield. “This Lone Wolf strategy does a disservice to Pennsylvania voters, parents, and students.”

The governor’s actions will further restrict public charter schools, even as more families seek a charter education for their children. In 2020–2021, more than 170,000 students attended charter schools—an increase of almost 23,000. The demand for charter schools far exceeds the supply, with over 40,000 students on waiting lists in Philadelphia alone.

Pennsylvania’s charter schools are public schools open to all students. While charter schools serve more low-income and minority students than traditional district schools, they receive, on average, 25 percent less funding.

“Our governor hasn’t set foot in a charter school in seven years but insists that he knows what’s best,” said Benefield. “Instead of trying to stifle choice for families by unilaterally designing a bureaucratic labyrinth, Wolf should work with the legislature to empower parents and provide more education opportunities for every child in the Commonwealth.”

The most important charter school reform would be to create an independent authorizer to approve charter school applications. This key reform is a component of House Bill 1 (Rep. Andrew Lewis), the Excellent Education for All Act. Instituting an independent authorizer would end the inherent conflict of interest between school boards and public charter schools.

 Over twenty states have some form of an independent authorizer.

Commonwealth Foundation experts are available for comment. Please contact Stefanie Mason at [email protected] or 414-418-5132 to schedule an interview.

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The Commonwealth Foundation transforms free-market ideas into public policies so all Pennsylvanians can flourish.