What does charter reform mean for the person tasked with representing Warren County in Harrisburg?
"They're really trying to address more the cyber-charter than the brick and mortar charter, however, I believe in school choice," said State Rep. Kathy Rapp (R-65) in an interview last week.
While the Senate has undertaken charter reform, the House has its version as well.
"This bill, from what I understand, as I voted against it in the House, mostly because of the charter school in Tidioute," said Rapp. "I am concerned about consequences down the road."
"I am on the Education Committee. I am the chair on the subcommittee on special education," she said. "I also represent a charter school that has been very, very successful. So, while I also believe in public education, and we have great teachers, great schools here, but there are parents who want a choice in education. So I support that."
Rapp acknowledged that the pension "double dip" issue is "a big contentious issue in that bill."
"I did not support it when it was in the House because I believe it's going to leave the cyber charters, and we do have many parents in Warren County who cyber school their children, so I represent those families, too," she said. "I am concerned that they might be left hanging on a limb if we decrease any of their funding. The brick and mortar public schools, they're always clamoring for more money to educate their students, but they want less money for cyber charter(s). But I am concerned because I do believe the parents should have the choice and the right as to where their children are educated, and many of these parents are property owners, so they're supporting public education. They will want for whatever reason to educate their children in an alternative setting."
"We've looked at this for a long time, this cyber charter school issue. It's really, in my opinion, driven by PSEA (Pennsylvania State Education Association), the unions and the school board directors. If there are issues that we need to correct, then we need to correct, but we don't want to punish those schools."
Rapp also expressed concern about the concept of universities authorizing charter schools.
"I have heard from both sides, and I have talked to some of the folks down at Tidioute Charter School," she said. "They themselves have talked about this and the person I talked to, they believe that there's already a prejudice there, because most college professors are very pro-what we have always known as public education.
"So I would be concerned about that if there's already a pre-formed prejudice, but you don't know what's in another person's mind and how they're thinking, so they're speculative in some ways. Obviously it's like anything else, it depends on who's being chosen to review whatever school."