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Education Department, Erie County Schools and Legislators Call for Charter School Accountability Reform


Erie County schools would save $6.4 million
More than 80% of school boards in Pa. are urging reform

Harrisburg, PA - With more than 80 percent of school districts demanding charter school law reform, Pennsylvania Department of Education’s (PDE) Acting Secretary Noe Ortega joined Erie Public Schools Superintendent Brian Polito and Millcreek Township School District Superintendent Dr. Ian Roberts for a virtual press conference today to discuss bipartisan legislation that hold charter schools accountable to students and taxpayers and saves nearly $400 million.

“Students across the commonwealth deserve a quality education, no matter their zip code,” said Acting Secretary Noe Ortega. “In an effort to ensure the continued mission of high-quality learning in PA, our public schools must be held accountable for their educational outcomes and subject to fair, predictable funding structures and standards.”

Governor Wolf and bipartisan legislators are proposing a common sense and fair plan to fix Pennsylvania’s broken charter school law. The plan holds low-performing charter schools accountable to improve the quality of education, protects taxpayers by aligning funding with costs, and increases the transparency of for-profit companies that run many charter schools.

Rather than forcing school districts to overpay charter schools for services, the legislation saves $395 million a year, including $185 million by funding special education in charter schools the same way the state does for all other public schools and $210 million a year by establishing a fair statewide cyber charter school tuition rate.

Erie County school districts would save $6.4 million under the proposal including $371,500 for Millcreek Township School District and $5 million for Erie City School District. A complete list of savings by school district is available here.

“Erie’s public schools charter tuition costs rose from 11 million in 2008-2009 to a projected $31 million this year, a 182 percent increase. That is simply unsustainable,” said Erie’s Public Schools Superintendent Brian Polito. “The kind of common-sense reform proposed by Governor Wolf is essential for our fiscal health as a district and our ability to invest in our students, both of which directly affect the health and prosperity of our entire region.”

Millcreek Township School District Superintendent Dr. Ian Roberts added, “The issue, which creates a cantankerous relationship, pertains to the disparity in accountability, as public schools are held to the highest fiscal and academic standards. Conversely, failing, or low-performing charter schools often perpetuate mediocrity without consequence. Increasing accountability for performance and addressing the major issue of the expensive and unfair funding formula between charters and public districts needs to be addressed with a sense of urgency.”

The rising cost of charter schools is draining funding from traditional public schools and forcing school districts to cut education programs and raise property raises. The urgent need for reform has led to more than 80 percent of Pennsylvania’s 500 school boards to pass resolutions calling for charter school reform.

Despite the skyrocketing taxpayer cost, charter schools have little public oversight and no publicly elected school board. For-profit companies that manage many charter schools are not required to have independent financial audits.

In addition to saving nearly $400 million per year, the bipartisan, commonsense reform plan:

  • Protects students by creating charter school performance standards that hold low-performing charter schools accountable and rewarding high-performing charters with more flexibility. Cyber school enrollment would be limited until their educational quality improves. A 2019 Stanford University report found overwhelming negative results from Pennsylvania’s cyber schools and urged state reform.
  • Protects the public trust by making for-profit charter school companies accountable. Charter schools would be required to have policies to prevent nepotism and conflicts of interest, so leaders do not use charter schools for their own financial benefit. Charter schools and their leaders would follow requirements of the State Ethics Commission since they are public officials.

For more information on Governor Wolf’s proposed 2021-22 budget, visit

For more information about Pennsylvania’s education policies and programs, please visit the Department of Education’s website at or follow PDE on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

NOTE: Access a video of Acting Secretary Noe Ortega speaking on Charter School Reform.

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