Rabb backs Democratic charter school reforms to treat all Pa. public schools equally

PHILADELPHIA, April 19 – State Rep. Chris Rabb, D-Phila., strongly supports the package of charter school reforms House Democrats announced today, which would treat all Pennsylvania public schools – both traditional and charter – and their students equally under law.

"Both charter schools and traditional public schools are considered public schools under Pennsylvania law. Both receive tax dollars. I firmly believe that all of these public schools and their students should be treated equally under law," Rabb said.

Rabb said the proposed reforms House Democrats unveiled today include:

  • H.B. 1199, introduced by Rep. James Roebuck, D-Phila., which would end conflicts of interest in tax-funded payments for charter school leases and potentially help to recover millions of dollars from leases the state Auditor General's Office has identified as questionable.
  • H.B. 1204, introduced by Rep. Maria Donatucci, D-Phila./Delaware, would provide a clear process for administrators to follow when closing a traditional or charter school building. Her bill would also allow the state to develop a database of unused or underused school facilities to ensure their potential sale or re-use benefits the taxpayers who paid for them. Rabb said, "Often these closings can be damaging to a neighborhood and this legislation would do a lot to address that."
  • H.B. 1202 would require charter schools to use the same teacher evaluation system already in use at other public schools. This would take effect in the 2017-18 school year and would allow parents and taxpayers to compare "apples to apples."
  • H.B. 1201 would limit charter school management organization fees to no more than 5 percent of tuition charged per student enrolled. Besides limiting overhead, the bill would require much more financial disclosure from for-profit and nonprofit school management organizations. "Public schools shouldn't be a source of massive private profit. Our kids' education must come ahead of Wall Street," Rabb said.
  • H.B. 1200 would phase in a final recommendation of the Special Education Funding Commission to fix how Pennsylvania pays for high-cost special education students. Currently, charter and cyber schools essentially get penalized if they accept high-cost special education kids. At the same time, in the 2012-13 school year, charter schools received nearly $200 million more than necessary to meet the special education needs of their students.
  • H.B. 1198 would bring charter schools in line with school districts by imposing limits the same as traditional public schools have on the surpluses that charter schools may accumulate.
  • H.B. 1203 would address the millions of dollars' worth of ads for charter and cyber charter schools, which would have to stop advertising "free" tuition or transportation. Their ads would have to start disclosing that instructional and transportation costs are paid for by tax dollars, much like the existing requirement for ads by state agencies.