Re: New study links Pa. charter school growth with loss of district resources, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
December 02, 2016
If you Google the Economic Policy Institute, which sponsored the study referenced in the December 1 Post-Gazette “New study links Pa. charter school growth with loss of district resources” article, you will find that almost 30% of the Board are union leaders, including those from the two largest teachers unions in the country. Since teachers unions have consistently been opposed to charter schools, the conclusions from the study are not surprising.
But that’s not the most concerning part of the study. The earth-shattering finding is that when money moves from one organization to another, the original organization has less money with which to work. What is conveniently not mentioned is that, along with some of the money, the responsibility for educating the children also moves from the district to the charter school. Yes, the districts have less money, but they also have fewer children to educate. The more fundamental questions, which are not addressed in either the study or the article, are why parents feel the need to move from district to charter schools and what can districts do to stop that exodus?
In the past five years, the number of students in charter schools in Pennsylvania has increased from 70,000 to 134,000 and there are tens-of-thousands more children on waiting lists to get into a charter school. In Philadelphia this year one high-performing charter school had 8,000 students apply for 95 openings. Why? It’s because an increasing number of parents, especially in the urban areas, believe the existing system is failing their children and that good charters provide a better education and future for their children. And that perception is confirmed by the most extensive study done on the performance of urban schools by The CREDO organization at Stanford. The Chester Upland School District now has about 53% of the students in charters and Philadelphia is around 34%, and growing.
The irony is that districts could stop this exodus by merely doing two things. First listen to the parents and understand why they are leaving and then change to address their concerns. Districts that are either unwilling or unable to do so should not stand in the way of parents who want a better future for their children. Districts do not exist to serve the adults within the system, they exist to serve the children. And those who refuse to look inward for solutions and instead choose to blame charters for this exodus take the unstated position that maintaining the status quo is more important than providing what is best for all the children districts were created to serve. In that philosophy, the system is more important than the children and that should be absolutely unacceptable to any good educator.
There is also one gross misstatement of fact in the article. Charter schools ARE subject to the state’s open records laws.
Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools