HARRISBURG (June 28, 2021) – The following is a statement from Lenny McAllister, CEO of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools (PCPCS), on the finalization of the FY2022 budget for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
“The Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools thanks those in Harrisburg that crafted and finalized the FY2022 budget, one that can serve as a bridge from the tragedy of the pandemic to the promise of better days for Pennsylvania’s schoolchildren. At this moment, it is important to remember the road we just traveled. Much of the past two school years have been wrecked by the pandemic. If we are not careful with policy decisions, a reckoning – in the forms of academic performance woes, behavioral challenges, and developmental stagnation – will plague our children for the next few years.
This budget is one step that acknowledges the bigger challenges ahead of us. Both the smallest school districts and the biggest systems have noted the same thing: now is not the time to cut education funding for the most disadvantaged students in Pennsylvania. Securing stable resources for all schools within the FY2022 budget is a win for students across our state, but it is one that must be one stacked with other wins over time as we continue down a challenging path of needed recovery and expanding prosperity.”
In remembering those bigger challenges, Pennsylvania parents and leaders must remember the journey taken by all of us statewide over these past 16 months – and we must never forget.
We must never forget that since March 2020, parents across the Keystone State and throughout our nation clamored for expanded school choice options, with legislation being passed in multiple states that compete with Pennsylvania for jobs, opportunities, and residents. We must do better in Pennsylvania moving forward to meet their demands for better options for their children.
We must never forget that during a time when roughly 170,000 students in public charter schools – a vast majority of whom are among the most underserved and socio-economically disadvantaged students in our Commonwealth – struggled with the dynamics of the pandemic that the rest of us did, Governor Wolf and his political allies tried to cut $400 million for their basic and special education funding, even as all 500 school districts around Pennsylvania received multiple rounds of federal COVID funding, including $4.9 billion from The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. We must never forget that we have a two-tiered system within public education that has existed since the onset of the 1949 Public School Code, one that some wish to further entrench even during the darkest of times. Parents deserve better options for their children, especially after this pandemic.
We must never forget that during a time when Pennsylvania students and their schools counted on a sense of lawful stability and consistency, Governor Wolf – in an unprecedented move – disbanded the Charter Appeals Board with the same unilateralism that Pennsylvanians voted down in May. This move was done outside of the parameters of the charter school law. We must not be in a position ever again where due process – a fundamental right in America – can be stripped away from the most vulnerable that seek better education options in Pennsylvania by the frustrated whims of one woman or man.
We must never forget that during a time when public cyber charter schools were primed and willing to take the lead in educating our children at the beginning of the pandemic – and when they were also willing to help those that needed training to do the same for their schools – some in Harrisburg successfully fought in March 2020 to freeze funding at closed schools, preventing open schools from receiving much-needed resources at the beginning of the pandemic. This stopped taxpayer dollars from supporting schools that were open and teaching our children during an unprecedented time in our history. We must never forget that even during the worst of times, some will continue to play the worst of political games and harm the most vulnerable people in our society – our schoolchildren – with their actions. We cannot allow that to happen again.
We must never forget that the pandemic fundamentally changed education in Pennsylvania and around the nation. It changed how we view how we teach our children, how we care for our children, and how we work with families to do right by our children. Even as schools reopen and our lives go back to normal, we must never forget that we are now living within a new normal in public education in Pennsylvania – a new normal that requires us to be innovative, visionary, and reactive so that the needs of families can be met for a better Commonwealth tomorrow and for generations to come. That new normal cannot be secure for our schoolchildren moving forward without securing greater parental empowerment in education throughout Pennsylvania starting now.”
The Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools (PCPCS) is the state’s largest and most active organization advocating for both brick-and-mortar and cyber charter schools. Pennsylvania’s 180+ charter schools educate more than 165,000 students, and demand for these public schools continues to grow, with more than 25,000 students on charter school waitlists. For more information on PCPCS or PA public charter schools, visit www.pacharters.org.