Report: PA gets a B for charter school law, but needs to improve

The Center for Education Reform released a report today ranking Pennsylvania’s charter school law a “B,” saying that most states that made strides in the past have not continued the trend despite billions of dollars in federal money given for such reform purposes.

The report, Charter Schools Ranking and Scorecard 2011, directed toward states’ new governors and state lawmakers, states that neither the nation’s heightened awareness of charter schools, nor the promise of federal funding increases, actually yielded widespread changes in state laws.

Pennsylvania was given a B for its charter school law this year

“This year, while some states made changes to their laws, none were bold or dramatic enough to catapult a state that, in 2010, received a failing or middling grade to receive an A or B this year. Indeed, the same states that received high marks in 2010, do so again in 2011. This is disappointing — especially given the billions of dollars doled out by the federal government for reform purposes — but it is not surprising,” stated the report.

PA Governor-elect Tom Corbett, an advocate for school choice, has been public about his support of charter school growth across the commonwealth.

The state, which passed its charter school law in 1997, received the lowest score in its category – 31.5 points. (In contrast, Arizona received the greatest number of points in the same category with 38 points). The total amount of points a state could score this year is 55. Pennsylvania’s score is a slight decrease from its score last year, which was 32.5.

A few of the major grading factors include:

1. Multiple Authorizers – the term is used to describe a component in law that permits charter authorization by entities other than school boards such as universities, new, independent state agencies, nonprofit organizations and/or mayors.
2. Number of Schools Allowed – how many charter schools are allowed to open, whether annually, in total throughout the state, or on a local level? Do the caps imposed through charter law hinder the growth and development of the charter school movement in the state? Restrictions are not only defined by the number of schools that exist, as some states limit growth by placing limitations on enrollment (by school or even grade) or restricting the funds permitted to be spent.
3. Equity – fiscal equity requires that the amount of money allotted for each charter school student is the same and the monies charter schools receive come from the same funding streams as all other public schools. If the law guarantees that charter schools receive money that is the same amount as and received in the same manner as traditional public schools, then they will be viewed as and treated the same as public schools in law and in practice.

To read the report, click here.