PCPCS News

PRESS RELEASE: Gov. Wolf’s Budget touts Fairness and Equitable Investments in K-12 Education. But Ask PA Public Charter School Students and They’ll Say: It’s Anything But Fair and Equitable.

Schools for 170,000 kids would be slashed $373 million under the guise of “saving districts money”

HARRISBURG (Feb. 8, 2022) – Since March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has cut a lot out of the lives of Pennsylvania schoolchildren. It has cut out weeks of in-person instruction. It has cut out athletic games and other extracurricular activities. It has cut out in-person graduations and other social gatherings. And now, Governor Wolf proposes yet again another cut to 170,000 public school children in Pennsylvania through cuts for many educators, rusing the Commonwealth by calling it a “savings” for others. 

Today, the governor released his annual budget for 2022 – 2023. One of the ongoing themes from Governor Wolf’s budget proposal is “…Advancing Fairness, Equity, and Quality in the Public Education System…”, a clear indication that he acknowledges the need to improve K-12 academic options and results for Pennsylvania parents and their schoolchildren. And yet, in a time where innovation, fairness, and equitable treatment have never been more important in our public education system, the Governor produces a budget that plays favorites, plays politics, and plays with the lives of thousands of Pennsylvanians through the same tired proposals that simply have not worked for them. Providing a lifeline for resources for some through cuts to others bleeds us of opportunity for all.

Any cut to education resources in any school in Pennsylvania during a one-in-a-century pandemic is unacceptable, especially for a state that strives to be a home where people can live, learn, work, play, and retire. Cuts for disadvantaged students in public education while asking for a $1.5 billion increase in public education is both incoherent in its mission and irresponsible in its proposal. It is not the doing of an education governor. 

Governor Wolf’s budget would be detrimental to Pennsylvania families. The governor’s biggest target is the public charter school community, a collection that is disproportionately made up of children from communities struggling with poverty and students-of-color that have been underserved scholastically for decades. 

When Governor Wolf champions cuts to charter schools in Pennsylvania, he plans to hurt a school community that, when combined, make up the second-largest school district in the Commonwealth, a grouping that makes up a higher percentage of students with disabilities than district public schools.  Simply put, that’s why increasing funding for public district schools through decreasing resources for non-district schools – schools often made up of those seeking academic options the most – is not “fair” nor “equitable. 

It is simply wrong, as it once again plays politics with Pennsylvania’s future.  

The Governor’s budget request proposal calls for $373 million in cuts to public charter schools, including a whopping $145 million for charter schools in Philadelphia alone, where 1 of every 3 public school students attends a charter school. 

In fact, almost 170,000 children during the 2020-2021 school year were enrolled in charter schools throughout the Commonwealth – roughly 1 out of every 10 public school students. And yet, some of the largest proposed cuts are as follows under the guise of “saving school districts money from lower charter school tuition costs” and “estimated savings for school districts”: 

  • Philadelphia City SD $145.3 million
  • Pittsburgh SD $15.3 million
  • Coatesville Area SD $14.6 million
  • Woodland Hills SD $5.1 million
  • Chester-Upland SD $5 million
  • Allentown City SD $4.9 million
  • Erie City SD $4.4 million
  • Harrisburg City SD $3.9 million
  • York City SD $3.9 million

These cuts put some of the most at-risk students, including those with special needs and socioeconomic challenges. Instead of leading these children in escaping school districts that have seen leadership instability, financial scandal, and academic woes over recent years, Governor Wolf chooses to throw these children in the middle of another partisan, ill-guided mess.  

Further, public charter schools disproportionately serve students-of-color and hire teachers-of-color. Students-of-color make up roughly 67% of charter school enrollment, while only making up roughly 35% of public school enrollment overall. While some school districts in Pennsylvania have not employed a teacher-of-color for some time, educators-of-color are disproportionately represented throughout leadership within the charter school community.

This request is detached from the realities that Pennsylvania families face. It mirrors the partisan bickering that cost thousands of students in 2015 academic opportunities during Governor Wolf’s first budget proposal and negotiations that featured a months-long delay in passing the budget. 

This pandemic has called for Pennsylvania’s leaders to be innovative both now and for the future in everything from employment to healthcare. Education undergirds that all. Yet, Governor Wolf is trotting out the same stale proposals and lack of vision, even as Pennsylvania families have voted with their feet to the tune of a 85% increase in charter school enrollment since 2009-2010. 

Governor Wolf: Support all public schools in Pennsylvania. Use the excess in COVID relief to close the gaps in spending given to district schools and public charter schools and recognize that all public schools need our support. Halt the attack on charter schools, especially as parents continue to clamor for more school choice options in public education, by rolling back your call for cuts. Facilitate the expansion of options by directing your Department of Education and charter authorizers to work with charter schools more proactively, more collaboratively, more efficiently, and more timely than what is the case right now. We should be coming together when it comes to the education of Pennsylvania’s children, not continuing to choose sides.  

Governor Wolf: This public education budget request abandons some of the most neediest in our Commonwealth.  Your legacy may reflect this abandonment, putting politics above students, if you are not willing to finally listen to parents from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh: protect our public charter schools, provide us more stability for our choices for our children, and prove that you are truly an education governor for all Pennsylvanians.

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On February 15, PCPCS will unveil its 2022 Legislative Agenda urging Governor Wolf and state lawmakers to ensure fair funding for ALL public schools, including public charter schools and their 170,000 students enrolled during the 2020-2021 school year. To schedule an interview with a member of the Coalition staff, a charter school leader or a charter school parent, please contact Jean Morrow at j.morrow@pacharters.org.