2018 PPI Score
School Choice Score: 72%
Pennsylvania’s Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Program, enacted and launched in 2012, offers corporations tax credits for their donations to Opportunity Scholarship Organizations (OSOs) that provide private school scholarships. Students who meet the zoning and income requirements can receive those tax-credit scholarships.
The Pennsylvania legislature enacted and launched the Educational Improvement Tax Credit Program in 2001. The program offers corporations tax credits for donating to organizations that provide low- and middle-income families private school and prekindergarten scholarships, as well as organizations that support innovative public school programs.
Charter Schools Score: 72%
Pennsylvania earns a “C” for its average charter school law. There is no authorizer diversity in Pennsylvania: only public school districts can authorize charters. The state appeals board can approve schools on appeal, but this doesn’t happen often, especially when anti-charter officials sit on the board. District oversight limits charter autonomy and growth, despite great demand (over 40,000 students are on charter school waiting lists).
In Philadelphia, the situation is particularly dire. The governor-appointed School Reform Commission is returning power to the local school district, which has traditionally been hostile to charter schools. The potential for charter schools to serve more Philadelphia students may decline if the law does not enable additional authorizers.
- Law passed in 1997
- Number of charters: 180
- Estimated charter enrollment: 138,400 (down 2 percent from 2015-16)
- There is no cap on the number of charter schools
- Virtual charter schools are permitted
- EMOs and CMOs can operate with some regulations
- Pennsylvania earns 3 out of 15 for “authorizing.” Only districts can authorize brick and mortar charters. The State Board of Education authorizes virtual charter schools. Although limited authorizing options contribute to Pennsylvania’s low score, charter operators can appeal to the State Board of Education if they feel that districts are making adverse or unfair decisions. This is one positive aspect of the law.
- Pennsylvania earns 10 of 15 points for “growth.” While there is no legal cap on the number of charter schools that can exist, many districts throughout the state have imposed informal caps on the number of charter schools by choosing not to approve them. These limitations have hurt the growth of the state’s charter sector.
- Pennsylvania earns 13 of 20 points for “operations.” Charter schools in Pennsylvania have a blanket waiver from most state and district requirements. However, many districts strictly regulate charter schools and their activities. This regulation limits innovation and charter school autonomy.
- Pennsylvania earns 6 out of 15 points for “funding equity.” Charter school operational funding is inequitable because it is based on expenditure calculations made by the individual districts. The state can intervene if districts are not making scheduled payments to charter schools; however, charters are not entitled to the same federal funding as their district counterparts. Charter schools receive some per-pupil funding for facilities, but the amount does not come close to parity with districts.
Teacher Quality Score: 75%
Delivering Well Prepared Teachers C-
Expanding the Pool of Teachers D
Identifying Effective Teachers C+
Retaining Effective Teachers C
Exiting Ineffective Teachers C
Overall State Grade C