Jun. 13, 2019

HARRISBURG – Today, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed four pieces of legislation designed to update and improve the Commonwealth’s charter school law. These measures are authored by Reps. Mike Reese (R-Westmoreland/Somerset), Matt Dowling (R-Fayette/Somerset), Jesse Topper (R-Bedford/Franklin/Fulton) and Jim Marshall (R-Beaver/Butler).

House Bill 355, authored by Reese, would make critical ethics, transparency, governance and auditing reforms.

“This legislation is vital to improving and strengthening our charter school law, which is currently outdated,” said Reese, who has been an active leader on charter school reform. “Charter schools play a critical role in the educational sphere in Pennsylvania and we must ensure that they are held to the highest standards. I am grateful to my colleagues for passing this legislative package.”

House Bill 356, authored by Dowling, would address charter school facilities, including the use of sectarian facilities, purchase of school district facilities, operation of more than one charter school location and access to testing facilities.

“Ensuring students have access to a safe and supportive learning environment and the tools they need to be successful is an important component to updating our charter school law and ensuring a strong, quality school choice option for the Commonwealth’s children and families,” Dowling said.

House Bill 357, authored by Topper, would establish uniform processes and procedures related to charter applications, renewals, amendments, enrollment and attendance records.

“This bill would bring comprehensive changes to the Commonwealth’s charter schools,” Topper said. “As of now, there is no uniform amendment process charter schools must follow. We must create a statewide process in order to increase transparency and set guidelines for use throughout the state.”

Finally, House Bill 358, authored by Marshall, would permit charter schools and area vocational-technical schools to enter dual enrollment agreements with institutions of high education.

“Current state law only allows traditional public schools to enter into dual enrollment agreements and offer such programs to students,” Marshall said. “These types of programs have been very beneficial for students and help give them a jump start on their postsecondary academic careers. Charter school students should have access to the same opportunities.”

“As chair of the House Education committee, I am happy to see these bills move successfully through the House,” said Rep. Curt Sonney (R-Erie), who recently moved the reform package out of the House Education Committee. “As I have said before, I believe more work still needs to be done, but these bills are a great first step to updating our charter school law, and I am grateful to my colleagues in the House for their bipartisan support.”

Pennsylvania’s history with charter education dates back to 1997, when the Commonwealth passed legislation allowing public charter schools to launch and offer families alternatives when considering their children’s education. This was considered groundbreaking not only because parents were enabled with more choices, but because charter schools were afforded some leeway regarding curriculum and teaching methodologies.

However, Pennsylvania’s charter school law has not seen real reform since 2002 and this legislative package would help bring the outdated law up to date to ensure that Pennsylvania can meet the unique educational needs of each and every child.

These bills now head to the state Senate for consideration.

From left to right: Reps. Matt Dowling (R-Fayette/Somerset), Mike Reese (Westmoreland/Somerset), Jesse Topper (R-Bedford/Franklin/Fulton), Jim Marshall and Curt Sonney (R-Erie) discuss charter school reform.

Representative Mike Reese
59th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Brooke Haskell

House Passes Charter School Reform Package