A Fair, Accountable, and Transparent Education

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Just prior to vetoing legislation that could have provided scholarships for up to 50,000 waitlisted students, Governor Wolf called the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program a distraction that lacks “fairness and accountability.” He further claimed that “all students should be educated through the public school system.”

Two months later, the governor attacked charter schools, again under the guise of fairness, accountability, and transparency.

But what are the facts on fairness, accountability, and transparency in the Commonwealth’s education system?

Fairness: Every Child Should Have Access to a School that Meets their Needs

Children are being turned away from their school of choice.

Accountability: All Public Schools Should Be Held to the Same Standard

While underperforming charter schools have closed in Pennsylvania, chronically underperforming district schools that fail their communities are often rewarded with more money.

Meanwhile, spending by school districts has increased 24% over the past 10 years even while enrollment has decreased 8%.

Chart: Education Spending v. District Enrollment

True accountability happens when schools are answerable to parents. When parents can walk, schools are forced to adjust to the needs of students.

  • In 2010, Ambridge Area School District accelerated their own full-day offerings when an incoming charter school offered full-day pre-kindergarten and kindergarten.
  • Logos Academy in York serves 275 students through an open enrollment policy. The student population is 82% minority and 66% below the poverty line.[1] Logos has closed the achievement gap for their high schoolers.
  • Gesu School in Philadelphia serves 450 students, 100% of whom are on free and reduced lunch. The student population is 99% Black and 90% graduate on time while 85% attend college.[2] Duckrey Tanner School, one mile away in the same zip code, has single digit proficiency in math and 17% in English.[3]
  • The Neighborhood Academy in Pittsburgh serves students from 14 different zip codes, 72% of whom have taxable family income less than $25,000, 60% live in a single-caregiver household, and 88% would otherwise attend an underperforming school. Yet, 100% of graduating seniors are accepted to college and 64% graduate college within six years.[4]

Transparency: Choice Schools are Held to a Higher Standard of Transparency

Charter schools must submit numerous reports for renewal every five years, including student achievement data, financial solvency records, and enrollment trends.[5] District schools do not have to justify their existence in this way. In fact, if the framework for charter renewal were applied to Philadelphia district schools, only 47% would meet the criteria for renewal, compared with 78% for charter schools.[6]

  • Financial mismanagement at district schools, such as Harrisburg, often goes undiagnosed until a state audit is conducted.
  • Public charter schools file a Charter Annual Report to the local school district and the Pennsylvania Department of Education. This report includes composition of the governing board, the school’s financial position, new capital expenditures, staff certification and professional development, special education compliance, among other information.[7]
  • Even in top performing districts like Fox Chapel, residents complain about a lack of transparency and feel their issues are not being addressed.
  • The combined total of district reserve (general fund) balances has risen steadily for 13 consecutive years to $4.6 billion. Some districts even request tax increases above the Act 1 limit, despite holding large amounts in reserves.

Chart: School District Revenues are Rising

Governor Wolf’s definitions of fairness, accountability, and transparency vary by school type. For under-performing district-run schools, his solutions are to decrease standardized testing, water down tests, and increase funding. But for charter schools, Wolf wants to cut funding, limit enrollment, and ban new cyber charter schools.


Pennsylvania students deserve better. Regardless of their income or zip code, families should have choices when it comes to education.


[2] Gesu School – A Model For Success, https://www.gesuschool.org/a_model_for_success

[7] Letter to the Editor, “State’s charter school law must be updated,” https://www.citizensvoice.com/opinion/state-s-charter-school-law-must-be-updated-1.2530897