Pennsylvania charter, public schools not always bound to same rules

Charter schools are public schools, funded with taxpayer dollars, but charter and regular public schools don’t have to follow all of the same rules.

The state Charter School Law provides some exemptions, from length of the school year to bidding requirements for supplies.

The newest exemption is the newly approved state requirement for public schools — except for charter schools — to consider student performance as half of the measurement for evaluating teachers beginning in 2013-14.

Ira Weiss, solicitor for Pittsburgh Public Schools, believes the current exemptions are so significant that it’s like having two basketball teams, one with eight players and the other with 11.

“Everybody likes to talk about competition. Competition really means playing by the same rules,” Mr. Weiss said.

Bob Fayfich, executive director of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools, said the charter school law was designed to eliminate some administrative burdens while at the same time providing accountability for performance.

He said that has worked well in some cases but not all.

He said accountability could be tightened up if the state, rather than individual school districts, authorized and oversaw all charter schools. That’s among the proposals that have been introduced in legislation seeking to change state law.

Click here to read the full article by Eleanor Chute published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (August 12, 2012)


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