This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
by Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks
Should the Pennsylvania Senate approve a measure that would allow colleges and universities to authorize new charter schools?
On Monday, the nonprofit Research for Action released a policy note detailing how the idea has played out in the 12 states that have embraced it.
There’s not enough evidence to suggest that allowing institutes of higher education (IHE) to authorize charters will result in greater student performance, according to the note.
"The research evidence does not support this idea at this time," said John Sludden, RFA’s senior policy assistant. "More information is needed."
Under Pennsylvania law, traditional public school districts are the only entity that can authorize and oversee the brick-and-mortar charter schools within their district boundaries. The state Department of Education authorizes and oversees the state’s cyber-charter schools.
Some see this system of authorization as a conflict of interest.
"In most cases, the district sees the charter schools as competitors, and they then have absolute control over whether those competitors exist or whether they don’t," said Robert Fayfich, executive director of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools, in a December interview.
Critics of the status quo say that colleges and universities could do a better job of overseeing charters than the often resource-strapped school districts.