Jonathan Cetel is the founding executive director of PennCAN. He lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The last few months have been a whirlwind of activity for PennCAN – in Harrisburg and across Pennsylvania.

In May, I introduced you to PennCAN: The Pennsylvania Campaign for Achievement Now and our three founding campaign goals: 1) measure teacher effectiveness, 2) restore funding for full-day kindergarten, and 3) expand high quality school options.

At the close of the spring legislative session we celebrated many wins: a new teacher evaluation system, restoration of the Accountability Block Grants to fund full-day kindergarten, and a tax credit for corporations to provide scholarships to low-income students trapped in failing schools.. But, at the last minute, Pennsylvanians were denied a bill that would have reformed Pennsylvania’s outdated charter law.

So, during the shortened fall legislative session, we focused all of our attention on finishing what we started in June by passing a charter reform bill. 

In two months, PennCAN and its team of advocates rallied to launch a hard fought but ultimately unsuccessful campaign.  Here’s a recap of all that we did in those three short weeks.

  • We launched a “Thank-You” Campaign so that all the “yes” votes in the House received a letter from a charter school in his/her district acknowledging their support. 
  • We co-sponsored a charter school rally on the steps of Capitol Hill in Harrisburg, turning out over 300 parents, teachers, and students to loudly and passionately demonstrate support for an update to the outdated charter law. 
  • We had an op-ed published in The Patriot-News putting pressure on Governor Corbett to insist that legislators don’t go home without a sending him a good charter bill to sign into law .
  • PennCAN was also inspired by the many Pennsylvanians like you who took action. Over 1,200 Pennsylvanians signed our petition demanding charter reform. In addition, PennCAN hosted its first ever phone banking event, and volunteers spoke to Speaker Sam Smith and House Majority Leader Mike Turzai’s constituents about the need for reform. 

But last Wednesday, the Pennsylvania General Assembly failed to bring even a compromise charter bill to a vote. Their inaction means that charter schools still don’t have adequate academic accountability. It means that the charter school funding formula will continue to be unfair to both charters and traditional public schools alike. But most importantly, it means that the 40,000 Pennsylvania students on charter school waiting lists still don’t have access to the high quality options they deserve. 

Although the charter reform bill wasn’t passed, there’s still plenty we can do to continue advocating for reform, and with your help, we will succeed.

We’re excited about what the next year holds for PennCAN and for education reform in Pennsylvania, and I hope you are too – its because of your interest and involvement that we can advocate for changes in Pennsylvania’s education system.

Together we will keep fighting for great schools for Pennsylvania students, because great schools change everything.


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