Better oversight still needed for charter schools

Pennsylvania House members shouldn’t have adjourned without taking up a bill to reform how charter schools operate.

As difficult as it might have been, the House should have tried to find some way to resuscitate the measure — which had been watered down in the Senate — and turn it into legislation that would benefit schoolchildren.

The bill that passed the Senate last week with bipartisan support was far from being perfect. But it did have some good points that would have required better oversight of charters, including annual audits and standardized reporting. The legislation also had some flaws, which must be addressed to prevent mismanagement and inequitable funding.

Stripped from the bill was a provision that would have taken a necessary step toward reform by withdrawing the power to authorize charters from local school districts and giving it to a newly created state board.

That would be of great help in districts that have shown themselves incapable of coexisting peacefully with charters. Putting district officials in charge of charters has been counterproductive in situations where they see each other as adversaries competing for students and the education dollars that travel with them.

District officials have raised legitimate complaints about charters siphoning their funds. But the right legislation might bring about the coordination necessary for districts to effectively reduce their costs as students opt out of traditional schools for charters.

Charters should be a viable option for students. But there must be proper oversight to prevent charters from taking school dollars without providing a better education.

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