Gov. Tom Wolf fires the sitting charter school appeal board

Written by on May 6, 2021

Gov. Tom Wolf fires the sitting charter school appeal board

By Avi Wolfman-Arent / Keystone Crossroads

May 6, 2021

Gov. Tom Wolf speaks about his legislative priorities for the fall during a press event at Discovery Kids Child Care in Middletown on Aug. 25, 2020. Photo | Kate Landis / WITF

In Pennsylvania, charter schools are supposed to be able to appeal to a statewide board if they’re unhappy with a local decision.

Listen to the story.

One problem: That board seems to be functionally non-existent.

It’s a strange political fight: Gov. Tom Wolf and Senate Republicans are at odds over a plan to reduce carbon emissions.

And that fight is now sending ripple effects through state government. GOP leaders are blocking Wolf’s nominations for unrelated posts, and the governor retaliated by firing all the members of the Charter Appeals Board.

All had been appointed by Wolf’s Republican predecessor and were serving expired terms.

But now the board is in a bureaucratic twilight zone. 

Charters that want to challenge a local decision about opening a new school or closing an existing one may not have anywhere to turn.

Wolf has named replacements, but Republicans need to approve and say the firings were illegal.

State Sen. Lindsey Williams (D- Allegheny) hopes a resolution comes quick.

“There’s a reason that board exists and if we don’t fulfill it, that’s really just harming everybody,” Williams says. 

And it’s unclear how long the stalemate could last.

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