One of the things that didn't get done in the waning hours of the Pennsylvania General Assembly late last month was the charter school reform bill, a failure that has spawned the consternation of Gov. Tom Corbett, who wanted the matter handled.
Nine-tenths of the bill would have sailed through both houses, but the tenth tenth would have allowed charter schools and charter school vendors to slide out from under the the state's Right to Know Law. The Republican leadership of the House liked the idea. The Senate didn't like it, and there was no time to hammer things out.
What occured was a squabble with undertones of a long-standing feud between some members of the Senate and some members of the House.
The Republican handlers in the House contended their counterparts in the Senate were misreading both the charter proposal and the existing Right to Know Law, while some Senators said the provision was protection for large campaign contributions from the charter lobby.
Whatever the motivations,we believe the proposal was a bad idea.
Charter schools have become big business in Pennsylvania, a business that Gov. Corbett and his allies in the General Assembly (of which there are legions) would like to see grow even bigger.
The supporters of the proposal contend that private vendors should not be under the scrutiny afforded by the Right to Know Law because their other ventures should be off limits. In fact, they already are. Under the current law, according to a media law counsel of the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association, third-party records of private vendors are not open if they do not relate to charter schools. The House proposal would expand that exemption, and we think that is wrong.
There is no doubt that charter reform bills will be reconsidered in the fall, and we hope that Right to Know exemption won't be a part of them.