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Governor Disapproves ​Deficient Charter Resolution

Governor ​Tom Wolf today ​announced that new regulations that would provide transparency, equity and accountability in implementation of the commonwealth’s Charter School Law (CSL) ​are ready for publication, after he vetoed, disapproved, and returned to the General Assembly ​a deficient concurrent resolution disapproving the regulations.

“Pennsylvania needs these regulations to clearly define for the first time charter schools’ responsibilities to the taxpayers who fund them,” Governor Wolf said. “Charter schools received nearly $3 billion in publicly paid tuition in the past school year. Parents and taxpayers deserve a thorough accounting of how those billions of dollars were used.”

In his veto message, Governor Wolf said the concurrent resolution was procedurally deficient because the General Assembly failed to adhere to the timetable outlined in the Regulatory Review Act (RRA) for disapproving a concurrent resolution.

Additionally, Governor Wolf said the final-form regulation is essential as “a critical step forward in increasing transparency, equity, quality, and accountability in the implementation of the outdated Charter School Law, which has not been significantly amended since its passage over 20 years ago.”

The regulations, developed by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE), clarify several elements of the state CSL to align public charter school operations and oversight with that of traditional public schools. The regulations were approved in March by the Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) and were sent last week to the Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB) for publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.

The regulations:

  • Provide clear application requirements for entities seeking to open a charter school, regional charter school, and cyber charter school;
  • Ensure that all Pennsylvania students are able to access charter schools;
  • Clarify the ethics requirements for charter and cyber charter school trustees;
  • Require school districts and charter schools to follow the same fiscal management and auditing standards;
  • Streamline the process for charter schools to request tuition payments from school districts and the state; and
  • Provide a consistent, common-sense method for charter schools to meet the employee health care requirements in state law.

PDE began developing the regulations in August 2019. Nearly 2,000 comments from charter schools, school districts, professional organizations, lawmakers, and the public were considered as part of the process.

Gov. Wolf’s House Concurrent Regulatory Review Resolution 1 veto message:

Pursuant to Article III, Section 9 of the Pennsylvania Constitution and Section 7(d) of the Regulatory Review Act, I veto and disapprove, and return herewith, House Concurrent Regulatory Review Resolution Number 1, which disapproves the Department of Education’s Final-Form Regulation 6-349 (relating to charter schools).

I am vetoing, disapproving, and returning this concurrent resolution for two reasons.  First, the concurrent resolution is procedurally defective.  In adopting the concurrent resolution, the General Assembly failed to comply with the Regulatory Review Act (RRA), which creates the concurrent resolution process as applied to regulations.  The RRA provides:  

Upon receipt of the commission’s order . . . one or both of the committees may, within 14 calendar days, report to the House of Representatives or Senate a concurrent resolution and notify the agency. . . If either committee reports a concurrent resolution before the expiration of the 14-day period, the Senate and the House of Representatives shall each have 30 calendar days or ten legislative days, whichever is longer, from the date on which the concurrent resolution has been reported, to adopt the concurrent resolution. 

71 P.S. § 745.7(d).  Although the House adopted the concurrent resolution within the statutory timeframe, the Senate failed to adopt it within the 30 calendar days or ten legislative days from the date that the House committee reported the concurrent resolution.  Given the Senate’s failure to adopt the concurrent resolution in a timely and effective manner, the General Assembly has failed to comply with the RRA.   As such, the RRA directs that the General Assembly is deemed to have approved Final-Form Regulation 6-349.   

Second, I am vetoing, disapproving, and returning the Concurrent Resolution because Final-Form Regulation 6-349 is a critical step forward in increasing transparency, equity, quality, and accountability in the implementation of the outdated Charter School Law, which has not been significantly amended since its passage over 20 years ago.  After years of failed reform efforts, this regulatory package includes a host of needed reforms, including:  

  • Providing clear application requirements for entities seeking to open a charter school, regional charter school, or cyber charter school;    
  • Clarifying ethics requirements for charter and cyber charter school trustees;  
  • Requiring school districts and charter schools to follow the same fiscal management and auditing standards;  
  • Streamlining the process for charter schools to request tuition payments; and  
  • Providing a consistent, common-sense method for charter schools to meet the employee health care requirements in law.   

While this regulation represents the most significant charter school reform to date, the work is not done.  I urge the members of the General Assembly to pass my comprehensive charter reform legislation, which would modernize the law and create fair, predictable, and equitable funding for charter schools that will save school districts an estimated $373 million annually.   

For the reasons set forth above, I must veto, disapprove, and withhold my signature from House Concurrent Regulatory Review Resolution Number 1.

For more information about Pennsylvania’s education policies and programs, please visit the Department of Education’s website.

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