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Report: Pennsylvania Charter Schools Not Outperforming Traditional Public Schools

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- A new report says Pennsylvania charter schools are not outperforming traditional public schools, and the state's 20-year-old charter law needs to be beefed up.

The report by the nonprofit Public Citizens for Children and Youth says 21 percent of Pennsylvania's charters made the grade on the state School Performance Profile, while 54 percent of traditional district schools did.

"Most of our charters are performing in Philadelphia -- they are struggling as much as Philly schools, or doing worse," said Donna Cooper, the nonprofit's executive director.

At a Center City roundtable to issue the report, talk centered on HB97, a charter reform bill in Harrisburg. Grays Ferry state Rep. Jordan Harris voted for the bill.

"I think it's unfair to take all of the traditional public schools in the state and all of the charter school in the state and compare them to each other," said Harris.

The report criticizes HB97 because it doesn't define a high-quality charter, nor does it allow for a chronically failing charter to be shut down quickly.

Larry Feinberg, a member of the board governing the Pennsylvania School Boards Assocition, says there's consensus that after 20 years under what the state auditor general has called the "worst charter law" in the nation, change is needed.

"I think there's agreement in all quarters that it needs to be updated," said Feinberg. "The devil's in the details."

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