Hopes for much-needed reforms to the state charter school law grew brighter with Senate passage of a bill championed by state Senator Lloyd Smucker.
“Charter schools are an increasingly popular education option in many communities. At the same time, people are realizing that reforms are needed to ensure that the schools are meeting performance standards and operating in an accountable manner. My purpose through this bill is to strengthen charter schools and secure their future, rather than put them out of business as some are trying to do. In the end, we are protecting the taxpayer interest and looking after the student interest,” Smucker stated.
“This bill first and foremost applies good government laws to the charter schools – open meetings, open records, ethics standards. It also opens constructive opportunities for students, such as dual enrollment,” Smucker pointed out.
The bill assigns two important responsibilities to the state Department of Education. The first is to develop a standard application for charter schools, so it is clear what information prospective students and charter school operators must submit. The second is to implement a matrix for measuring student performance, so that taxpayers no longer have to sort through the conflicting claims of charter school administrators and critics to determine how well individual schools are doing.
“For years, various efforts to improve the law have been checkmated by sharp disagreements between the two sides. Through concerted negotiations, we have reached agreement on substantial steps to provide greater accountability in every way, academically, financially, and ethically,” Smucker explained.
Smucker said long-running disagreements over the funding formula applied to charter schools will be resolved in conjunction with basic education funding improvements, rather than within the confines of the charter school law.
The Senate recently approved Smucker’s resolution calling for a study of alternate authorizers of charter schools to be conducted by the Legislative Budget & Finance Committee.