I haven't jumped into the school funding fracas as yet, waiting to see how things shake out. However, something in today's Inquirer caught my eye. Dan Hardy writes "Local control sought on charter conversion." One paragraph in particular jumped out at me:
For a public school to be converted to a charter school now, a school board must approve the change, and more than 50 percent of the school's teachers and parents must agree. The proposed law would allow boards to approve the change by a majority board vote without endorsement by parents and teachers.
The bill was introduced by Sen. Jeffrey Piccola and a press release on his website that confirms that information (italics mine):
The legislation would create a statewide commission, independent from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, to be charged with oversight of charter and cyber charter school functions, such as the ability to serve as a depository of best practices. The commission would also serve as an independent authorizer of charter schools. Additionally, an advisory committee would be created to review and make recommendations to the Legislature regarding the thorny issues involving the funding of charters.
Senate Bill 904 would also allow institutions of higher education to approve the creation of a charter school, and an intermediate unit or local board of school directors would be allowed to create or convert an existing public school into a charter school. Moreover, the bill would modify the application and appeals procedures for the state's charter schools by streamlining administrative processes by which these schools are formed, evaluated, and renewed.
I can't find SB 904 on the state government's bill finder and it wasn't included in the state legislative email listing bills acted upon or introduced on March 28th (the day Piccola says the bill was introduced), so I can't read the actual bill language. Update: It is on the state's website but is 145 pages long, so reading it through for the relevant section will have to wait.
If local control is important then the more the better, yes? Why take away the parents' ability to approve the switch to a charter school? Or the teachers? Ask yourself if you want your school board making that decision all on their lonesome. Or the intermediate unit, whose leadership you have no control over at all.
Do you want to wake up one morning and find out that your local school board has decided to make your public school a charter school, with no input from parents or teachers?
I do not.
This is bad legislation.