The Lead

Wolf panned Corbett’s education policies, but inherited his charter review board without complaint: report

By: - February 13, 2019 11:43 am

Gov. Tom Wolf ran for the state’s top spot in 2014 promising to improve education across the Commonwealth, but he’s had a light touch on charter school regulation during his first term in office.

Wolf hasn’t made a single appointment to the state’s Charter Schools Appeal Board, according to a report in The Notebook, a non-profit news source covering education in Philadelphia.

All of the board’s current members are holdovers from former Republican Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration, the report says, and two of them remain on the board even though their terms expired.

There are also two vacant seats on appeals board that Wolf has neglected to fill.

Wolf’s office told The Notebook, A PUBLICATION THAT … [LINK HERE] that the governor planned to make appointments in the future. But they didn’t say when — or why he has failed to do so.

All appointees to the appeals board must be approved by the Republican-controlled state Senate.

The board can overturn charter school decisions made by local school boards, giving it great power over which charters operate across Pennsylvania.

Charter schools are privately managed but funded by contributions of taxpayer dollars from local school districts. Many districts have seen their charter school contributions increase in recent years, at the same time that budgets have been squeezed by rising healthcare and benefits costs.

Local school boards consider all applications by charter schools that want to operate in their districts.

If a board denies a charter school application, the applicants can challenge their decision by appealing to the appeals board. Its members can either uphold the local board’s decision, or reverse it, allowing the charter school to open its doors and receive taxpayer funding.

Windle writes: “The five-member CAB has seats with specific requirements that were designed to create a balance between stakeholders — some associated with traditional public schools, other with charters… But Corbett found ways to ensure all his appointees were tied to the charter school sector, and not all of them still meet the requirement for the seat they occupy.”

Read the full report on The Notebook’s website.

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Elizabeth Hardison
Elizabeth Hardison

Elizabeth Hardison covered education policy, election administration, criminal justice and legislative news for the Capital-Star from Jan. 2019-April 2021. You can find her on Twitter @ElizHardison.