Gov. Wolf's executive actions on charter schools could have major impact in Lehigh Valley

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - Governor Tom Wolf was in town Tuesday to announce actions that he says will level the educational playing field.

It's a move that could have a major impact in the Lehigh Valley.

This year alone the Allentown School District will pay charter schools $60 million.

However, an email from the Department of Legislative Affairs indicates Wolf's plan will save the district $10 million this year. The office cited changes to special education funding has a key component of that.

Heading into Allentown's Harrison Morton Middle School, Wolf spoke about the importance of education.

"If we want a Pennsylvania that is prosperous, healthy and strong we need good schools," he said.

However, ASD Superintendent Thomas Parker says his district is severely hamstrung by charter school payments that have doubled to $60 million in the past five years.

"If we do not find a way to address these needs our district our children and our generation will have failed due to a lack of action," Parker said.

Wolf says he's taking executive action to level the playing field for charter and public schools.

Wolf is allowing districts to limit the number of students going to charters that are under-performing.

Charters will be required to be transparent in their admission and enrollment policies, as well as how they spend money, especially when charging districts for educational services.

Wolf is asking for legislative changes, too.

Wolf wants the legislature to change how special education funding and charter school tuition payments are handled.

In perhaps a surprise response, CEO of Education Academy Charter School and President of the state's Coalition of Public Charter Schools Bob Lysek sees this as a positive step.

"All charter schools support the governor's initiative, and the districts they serve and collaborate with," Lysek said.

The Allentown School District is heading into the year with a $6 million budget hole.

State Reps. Mike Schlossberg and Peter Schweyer says the moves will save the district $10 million this year, but Superintendent Parker has not been able to confirm that.

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