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PA Charter Schools To Get More Support And Scrutiny With New State Oversight Group

  Gov. Tom Wolf created a new charter school oversight body through the state Department of Education on Wednesday, nearly two years after his gubernatorial campaign promised charter reform.

The Division of Charter Schools will be composed of a director, who has yet to be hired, plus three staffers. They're tasked with making sure the laws, processes and information already in place are followed, and that the data charter schools submit to the department is accurate and timely, Wolf spokesman Jeff Sheridan said.

“To this point, there really has not been any oversight to ensure that that is happening,” Sheridan said.

The division is also responsible for posting financial and other data online, monitoring student achievement and increasing site visits. Sheridan said the governor will also continue to work with the legislature to implement reforms to the system but the division will have some policy goals regarding education programming and achievement and growth measures.

“Student participation and attendance, and review and monitor compliance when it comes to school improvement plans,” Sheridan said.

The division is expected to conduct comprehensive audits and reviews that will precede the cyber charter renewal process.

If more staffers are needed, Sheridan said the administration will find ways to expand.

“The governor believes charter schools play an important role in the state’s education system and that role has to be accompanied by sufficient oversight,” he said.

Sheridan said Wolf does not believe charter schools are held to the same standards as public schools. 

"That’s what he’s trying to do by establishing this new division, to not only ensure that charters are being properly supported by the commonwealth, but that they are also being held accountable by the taxpayers.”

The Pennsylvania Department of Education reports there were 151 charter schools, 13 cyber charters schools and 10 regional charter schools in the 2015-2016 school year.