HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A Pennsylvania regulatory board on Monday approved Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposal to subject charter schools to stronger ethics and accounting measures and to try to root out any discriminatory admissions decisions.
The 3-2 party-line vote by the Independent Regulatory Review Commission was on a proposed regulation that, along with Wolf, was backed by Democratic lawmakers and public school boards and advocates, but opposed by Republican lawmakers and charter schools.
The regulation also requires charter schools to use a new payment system intended to avoid disputes with public school boards and to provide health care benefits for teachers on par with the authorizing school district. In addition, applicants wanting to start a charter school must provide more detailed information.
Wolf, a Democrat, commissioned the regulation after more than a decade of deadlock in the state Legislature over updating Pennsylvania’s 25-year-old charter school law, and as public schools have struggled to secure any concessions to help with fast-rising charter school costs.
“We are pleased with the commission’s step toward ensuring that all Pennsylvania workers are fairly paid for their labor,” Governor Wolf said. “Our embarrassingly low minimum wage has widespread effects that go beyond the unfairly paid workers and their families. When people earn a decent wage, they can contribute to the economic health of their communities and the commonwealth. When they don’t earn enough to pay for bare necessities, they are forced to rely on public benefits.”
Public school advocates have long pushed for measures to ensure charter schools are not fronts for profit-making operations that dump taxpayer money into marketing efforts while being overpaid for services provided and cherry-picking student applicants.
Opponents say the regulation goes beyond the original law and will hurt the ability of new charter schools to open and make it easier to unfairly close them.