Charter School Community Responds to School District Attacks

This week families celebrate school choice across PA

HARRISBURG – The following is a statement from Ana Meyers, executive director of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools, on the anti-charter school news conferences held by school districts during National School Choice Week.

“This week, children across the nation gather to celebrate the schools they have CHOSEN during National School Choice Week. It is a time when students plan events that showcase their schools and the talents they have been able to cultivate at their schools of choice. In Pennsylvania, there are a record-breaking 2,915 events taking place this week.

It is unfortunate that Pennsylvania’s school district leaders chose this week to attack public charter schools, rather than work with them to find solutions. Worse, they consistently attack charter school families for choosing to leave their schools.

It’s clear to anyone paying attention that their political agenda is to put more money in their coffers, not help students seeking the best educational options available.

There were plenty of false statements made today during the two press conferences held by school district superintendents – all of which we have already addressed but will continue to reiterate since the facts seem to escape these district representatives.

  • Pennsylvania’s charter schools are all public, nonprofit schools that operate under the same accountability and transparency standards as school districts. In fact, public charter schools face even greater accountability because they are approved by their authorizer (the local school district or the Pennsylvania Department of Education) and they are accountable to the families who CHOSE them.
  • District leaders talk a lot about charter “costs” and the rising price of charter schools. What they fail to explain to the public is that charter tuition is based on district spending and the number of students enrolling in charters. If districts are concerned about rising “costs” of charters, they should address the reasons why students are leaving and make those changes. In addition, districts love to blame charters for their financial woes but the truth remains that school districts actually profit off of charter school students because they get to keep about 25% of their tuition amount. So they get to keep a quarter of a student’s funding without any responsibility for educating that child.
  • District leaders don’t seem to have a problem with school choice, as long as parents are paying for it. They seem to have the distorted belief that the money they receive from the state or local taxpayers is somehow owed to them or they have earned it in some way. School districts exist to serve students and are funded based on the students who attend these schools. If a child chooses to leave their assigned school district for a charter school, their taxpayer funding should follow them.
  • District leaders who have called for funding cuts to charter schools and/or a moratorium on new charter school seats are disproportionately harming low-income students and students of color who benefit most from Pennsylvania’s public charter schools. As indicated by the superintendents who said they are not against school choice as long as parents are paying for it, school district leaders want to trap vulnerable populations of students in their institutions and eliminate all threat of competition so they can maintain their monopoly on public education.

We agree with district leaders that Pennsylvania’s Charter School Law needs to be fixed and we have been working for 4+ years to make meaningful reforms happen in Harrisburg. Instead of attacking charter schools and their students on during National School Choice Week, we ask these individuals and their advocacy groups to work with us on a reform package we can all agree on.

I ask that the media outlets and journalists covering these anti-charter press conferences ask these leaders meaningful questions about why their students are leaving and why they haven’t right-sized their budgets to reflect decreased enrollments. I also ask that they reach out to charter school families to hear why they left their school district (we would be happy to facilitate) and we invite you to attend one of our flagship National School Choice Week events, either in Allentown on Tuesday or Midland on Thursday.” 

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