PCPCS News

RECORDING NOW AVAILABLE: PA’s Need For Charter Reform That Puts Students Before Politics Press Conference

HARRISBURG (Feb. 26, 2021) – Public charter school leaders joined parents and lawmakers today to advocate for comprehensive, fair charter reform, and denounce all attempts to cut public school funding and limit school choice for families.

“Pennsylvania families across the Commonwealth are enjoying their lawful rights to enrolling their children in public charter schools,” Lenny McAllister, CEO of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools (PCPCS), said. “The General Assembly created charter schools 24 years ago to be a public alternative to school districts for families who couldn’t afford the educational choices available to those with the resources to pay for it. The governor wants to slash funding and limit these options for our state’s neediest families to benefit his political allies.”

Governor Wolf renewed his attack on Pennsylvania’s public charter schools during his 2021 budget proposal by calling for $229 million in cuts to charter school students – including $99 million from charter students receiving special education services – and imposing enrollment caps on public cyber charter schools.

“I would like to stress how devastating any funding cuts would be for our children, especially in Philadelphia where the governor’s plan would slash special education funding by half for our students,” Dr. Stacy Gill-Phillips, CEO of the West Philadelphia Achievement Charter Elementary School, said. “Philadelphia public charter schools, which operate on an extremely tight budget, have been leading the effort in our city to get students back in the classroom and any cut in resources would derail this progress.”

“Governor Wolf’s proposal to cut special education funding for charter school students will devastate my son,” Crystal Porter, Mastery Charter School parent and Philadelphia resident, said. “While the governor may call them ‘savings’ they are not. These are massive direct cuts to mostly Black and Brown children in Philadelphia. In the name of equity, the governor is cutting half the funding of our most vulnerable students like my son. How is that equitable?”

It is clear that the governor’s actions are not based on the needs of Pennsylvania families or the best interests of students. There are 40,000 students on public charter school waitlists in Philadelphia, thousands more are awaiting a seat in a charter school in the Lehigh Valley and public cyber charter schools opened their doors to an additional 25,000 students this school year. 

“Now, more than ever, families in Pennsylvania need access to educational choices that meet the unique needs of their children,” Rep. Josh Kail, serving PA’s 15th Legislative District, said. “It’s been six years of attacks on public charter schools from Governor Wolf and his political allies. If he truly wanted meaningful reforms he would spend less time talking about change at press conferences, and join my colleagues and I in working on comprehensive charter reforms that put students first.”

Dr. Rich Jensen, CEO of Agora Cyber Charter School, said Pennsylvania’s 14 cyber charter schools did not skip a beat during Wolf’s mandated school shut down last year.

“Pennsylvania’s public cyber charter schools have been an educational life-line for thousands of students, for nearly two decades, who struggle in traditional classroom settings and their value has never been more evident than during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Jensen said. “We have embraced the 25,000 new students who enrolled with us this school year. The governor is not worried about what is best for Pennsylvania students, he is too busy listening to concerned school district leaders who are seeing their students seek options elsewhere.”

Pennsylvania’s public charter schools serve a higher percentage of minority students, students from low-income families and students with special education needs than school districts. More than 70 percent of the students served by public charter schools are non-white and more than 65 percent are economically disadvantaged. Yet Governor Wolf wants create even more barriers for these children by limiting charter enrollment and slashing their funding.

“Public charter schools serve a diverse population of students. Many of them are some of Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable children who deserve our investment and support,” Dr. Dara Ware Allen, CEO of City Charter High School, said. “The pandemic has taken a toll on all of us and so many of my colleagues, particularly among Pennsylvania’s public charter schools, are finding innovative ways to engage students and, when it is safe, bring them back into the classroom. High quality educational options exist in charter and traditional districts. That should be a bipartisan stance. The current charter reform proposal by the governor does not reflect this stance. We need all hands on deck helping student succeed in these unprecedented times and beyond.”

PCPCS continues to call on Governor Wolf, the school districts’ special interest groups and lawmakers to work with PA’s public charter schools on reforms that ensure EVERY STUDENT has access to the education environment of their choice and the resources to be successful.

                                   ###

To view a recording of the press conference please click here.

To view a copy of PCPCS’ 2021 Legislative Agenda please click here.

Please direct all questions or requests for additional information to Jessica Hickernell at j.hickernell@pacharters.org.

About PCPCS: 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 140,000 students, and demand for these public schools continues to grow, with more than 40,000 students on charter school waitlists. For more information on PCPCS or charters schools, visit www.pacharters.org.