Pennsylvania is now ranked 16th out of 42 states with charter school laws, dropping four positions from its ranking in 2011. It was one of four states that fell in the rankings. 14 other states showed improvements. That's according to the third annual report from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, which keeps track of charter school legislation in the U.S.
"The drop in Pennsylvania actually didn't have anything to do with what the state did. It had more to do with what other states did," said Todd Ziebarth, with the Alliance. "2011 was a banner year for charter school legislation across the country. Pennsylvania dropped because other states improved their laws and leaped ahead."
Most notably, Indiana, which moved from 25th to 6th on the list, passed a comprehensive overhaul of its charter school law, which creates new authorizing entities, provides more support for charter school facilities, and makes progress on providing equitable funding for charter students, among other things.
Legislation pending in the Pennsylvania House would create an independent commission to oversee charter schools, and Ziebarth said passing that would be a step in the right direction for the state. There are more than 140 public charter schools in Pennsylvania, with more than 90,000 students enrolled and another 30,000 on waiting lists. Ziebarth said that shows the charter school movement isn't slowing.
"We've seen 300-400 new charter schools open per year, but I think, over the last few years, we've seen those numbers increase up to, in some cases, about 500 charter schools open up in a single year. Growth has been steady, and I think growth has actually been increasing recently," he said.