The constitution faculty law is outdated and damaged – and it is time to repair it

Investing in our children means investing in the future of the state for everyone, but now we are letting our children and taxpayers suffer – and it is time to change something for the better.

Our charter school law is colossally out of date, hurting children and taxpayers, while private middlemen are scooping up money to educate students.

It’s a law that was written in 1997. The only major change was five years later to allow charter schools to go fully online – to allow students to study from home, but the cyber charters still collect the same tuition fees.

That was in 2002, amazingly almost 20 years ago. Think how much technology has changed. It is time to develop a charter school law for the future, not the past.

Today, 20 cents of every dollar paid in property tax goes to charter schools, and only 14 charter schools receive more than half a billion dollars in tax each year. It is not sustainable and we see children suffering from it.

If we are to treat all schools fairly – and to put children and families first – we need charters to partner with our traditional public schools, not competitors for dollars stolen from suffering homeowners.

We have to be tough on the schools that fail our children on academics, ethics and costs. We need to reward solid performers who are innovative while at the same time fulfilling the obligations of the state.

We can do it. We can save taxpayers a quarter of a billion dollars every year and improve our current system, and there is a plan to do that – the Charter School Reform Act of 2021, HB 272.

How will it work?

It protects your right to know by having sophisticated charter schools operate to the same reporting standards as public schools and making sure their meetings and financial records are available to the public – the people who pay the bills.

But that’s not all it will do to protect the taxpayer. It will ensure that cyber charter schools calculate their tuition fees using a single statewide, data-driven rate, use the state’s existing cost-driven fair-funding formula to determine payments for special education, and protect families when the charter school closes or parents company goes bankrupt.

Most importantly, however, it is important to ensure that students receive the education they deserve to prepare for a life of success.

It will ensure that charter school missions are standardized to focus on what is working and help parents and school districts make the changes needed.

High performing charters are being identified to give them more opportunities to innovate and to help low performing charters get back on track.

Eventually, new cyber charters will be temporarily suspended until the existing cyber charters are on track and provide the high quality education our children and taxpayers deserve.

This bill can help children, help communities, and save the taxpayer some money at the same time.

This plan is already supported by both parties and is part of the state’s future budget. Please contact your local legislature and ask them to join the Charter School Reform Act. Our children have waited long enough.

Rep. Joe Ciresi, D-146, is a member of the Home Building, Commerce, Tourism and Redevelopment, and Game Supervision Committees. His district is in Montgomery County.