Two officials of the Philadelphia school system wrote an opinion piece warning that proposals for “charter reform” are actually a blank check for unlimited charter expansion with no regulation at all.

Dr. William R. Hite is superintendent of the Philadelphia public schools. Joyce Wilkerson is president of the Philadelphia school board.

They point out that the State Auditor said that Pennsylvania’s charter law is the worst in the nation.

Current proposals to benefit charter schools would make it even worse.

They write:

Legislation pending in the General Assembly pushes the charter law in the wrong direction. House Bills 356 and 357 create more risk for students, local districts, and taxpayers. We vehemently oppose these bills.

The legislation would allow all charter schools, even the poorest performers, to expand without the authorizing district’s knowledge or approval. These unpredictable expenses would not only create short-term fiscal challenges for the district but make it impossible to reasonably utilize multiyear budgeting — the very approach to budgeting that has allowed the district to make the strategic, sustainable investments that are resulting in improved academic performance across our schools. These bills undermine the fiscal-stability promise of local control.

Newly proposed charter legislation also frees charters from oversight that is necessary to ensure they are meeting academic standards. They make it harder to close underperforming charters and allow unfettered expansion of charters — even those with failing performance — without regard for their ability to successfully operate. The proposed standard charter application form lacks information on an applicant’s’ experience, finances, past performance, and operational ability, all of which are necessary to meaningfully assess whether the applicant can sustain a school that meets the needs of the very students it aspires to serve.

The original vision for charter schools was teacher-driven laboratories of innovation that would develop promising practices to inform and advance all public schools. Charters have not lived up to that promise. In fact, charter schools are only 6 percent of public schools in Pennsylvania but are 25 percent of the lowest-performing schools under new state standards. Is this the future we want for the commonwealth’s public education system? Is this the future our students and families deserve?

As usually, the charter lobbyists are advocating for no accountability, no supervision, and more money.