Wednesday, November 18, 2009
The Pennsylvania Senate Education Committee’s top Republican and Democrat are introducing a bipartisan bill aimed at overhauling oversight of Pennsylvania’s charter schools. The bill, sponsored by Republican Jeff Piccola and Democrat Andy Dinniman, would establish an Office of Charter and Cyber Charter Schools within the Department of Education. Right now, local districts regulate the 130-plus schools. This bill would take the control from the local districts and move it into the newly created office. Dinniman says the bill would also let colleges and universities establish charter schools, and allow institutions to renew their license for ten-year spans, instead of the current five-year limit. He says, “We are trying to lessen the barriers that charter schools would have to go through to be approved. And second, it’s often difficult to put into motion everything that’s required when you know you only have five years before the renewal.” Dinniman says hearings will likely be held in January. However, given the state’s shaky finances and recent layoffs it is likely that the Office of Charter Schools will not get off the ground until the economy improves.