Tom Corbett was voted out of office more than four years ago, yet his appointees continue to control the Charter School Appeal Board (CAB), a powerful body that can overturn school board decisions to deny charter school applications and strip communities of control over their education systems and finances.
All five appointed members of the CAB are Corbett nominees and all of them have expired terms. One seat is vacant.
We are joining our allies, Public Citizens for Children in Youth, in calling for a moratorium on proceedings of the CAB until a full complement of CAB members is proposed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate for unexpired terms. Further, we call on the Governor and the Senate both to immediately reach agreement on a balanced slate of nominees who will protect the interests of our students and taxpayers and to ensure those nominees are confirmed post haste.
Pennsylvania’s constitution gives school boards the power and obligation to impose taxes and oversee the expenditure of those taxes for the purpose of providing a free and appropriate education. State law circumscribed that constitutionally defined power in 1997 when the legislature created the CAB and empowered it to decide if a local school board’s rejection of a charter application or renewal was appropriately decided within the confines of the 1997 new Charter School Law.
As such, when the CAB decides that a school board has not appropriately rejected a charter school applicant, it can override the local school board’s decision and give the charter school a green light to open or continue to operate unless and until the school district challenges the CAB decision in Commonwealth Court.
When the CAB overrules these local school board decisions, it is de facto, deciding the expenditure of local school taxes and directing the payment of locally collected taxes to an entity other than the school district over which the school board has very limited control. Further, the board is overriding decisions made by duly elected local officials who are charged with ensuring the infrastructure of the public education system and the welfare of Pennsylvania’s students.
The Governor and the Pennsylvania Senate have an obligation to make approximately 800 appointments to slightly more than 100 boards and commissions. While hundreds of nominees have been proposed by the Governor and acted on by the Senate for various boards and commissions in the first five years of Governor Wolf’s term, the Governor has not forwarded any nominees for Senate confirmation for the CAB since taking office on January 1, 2015.
As a result, the CAB has one vacancy and five appointees each serving expired terms. Each sitting board members was appointed by Governor Corbett, whose power to the appoint to the board expired more than five years ago.
While many of the Commonwealth’s boards have members with expired terms carrying out their duties, the CAB has unparalleled powers when compared with any other board or commission whose members are subject to Senate confirmation.
Other state boards or commissions serve as the administrative hearing venue for appeals of the decisions made by municipal or county elected officials; but the CAB has sweeping powers to override the decision of locally elected officials in a manner that directs the expenditure of locally collected taxes. As such, the one vacancy combined with the fact that all sitting members are serving in expired terms and that they all reflect the perspective of the former governor calls into question the fairness and balance exercised by the board.
BASD Proud Parents is strictly pro-public education. We are an independent group with no affiliations to the BASD school board or any political parties. Our goals are to help parents stay informed about educational policy discussions and to facilitate ways for any of us who would like the chance to have our voices heard, to get more involved in those policy conversations.