Says governor’s plan hurts disadvantaged and vulnerable students
HARRISBURG (Feb. 3, 2021) – The following is a statement from Lenny McAllister, CEO of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools (PCPCS), on Gov. Tom Wolf’s 2021-22 budget plan that calls for $229 million in funding cuts for the more than 169,000 students attending public charter schools.
“Yesterday, Punxsutawney Phil completed his annual ritual. Today, so did Governor Wolf. Sadly, each year both leave many Pennsylvanians out in the cold.
Governor Wolf believes that over 169,000 public school students should endure nearly $230 million in funding cuts during a global pandemic and hard economic times. That is callously wrong.
We believe that every cent of public education spending should follow every Pennsylvania student without cuts, without delays and without fail to the public school of their choice. We support reforms that achieve these goals. We oppose proposals such as the governor’s that would harm the most vulnerable in Pennsylvania.
Governor Wolf’s 2021-22 budget proposal, containing the same slash and burn charter school plan as last year, is detached from the realities Pennsylvanians have faced recently. While school districts have struggled with the basics since Wolf’s mandatory school shut-down last March – including many staying closed to hybrid and in-person instruction despite established science – Pennsylvania’s public charter schools have continued to provide consistent and comprehensive education. The success by charters led more than 20,000 students, since March, to flee their districts and enroll in public charter schools. Why would Governor Wolf punish this success? Is this budget proposal about the people of Pennsylvania or just pleasing his political insiders?
Governor Wolf recycled a proposal that received little support from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle last year. It misleads Pennsylvanians by classifying these cuts to charter students as savings for school districts. It takes from some public school students unfairly – ones disproportionately among the most disadvantaged in our state – to give to the system.
In essence, he seems to be the Reverse Robin Hood of Pennsylvania Education: taking from the most disadvantaged students and giving to a system that collectively has over $4 billion in reserves and is in line for millions more in COVID-relief funding from the federal government.
That’s not right.
Charters already receive roughly 27 percent less funding than their peers in district schools. Yet, Governor Wolf wants to take more and redistribute it to district officials that scapegoat charter schools for their fiscal mismanagement. This proposal props up adults that primarily view education as an industry for good paying jobs, not as an institution where diversity and innovation can change the lives of Pennsylvania’s children. The governor knows that mandated pension costs are a primary driver for increases in local property taxes. That’s why he signed bipartisan pension reforms into law in 2017. Why continue to scapegoat children looking for better schools and a better life?
Again, that’s not right.
The governor’s plan would hurt some of Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable children, including students with special needs. In Philadelphia, Wolf’s proposal would result in school district students receiving twice as much funding for their special education services than students with those same needs attending a public charter school. Over 25% of all kids in Philadelphia attend a charter school. Why should they get less?
The cuts would also disproportionately impact students of color and those from disadvantaged families. For these families, a public charter school is their best chance for a quality education and a better life. During Black History Month, another attack on school choice stands in stark contrast to the governor’s march with Black Lives Matter just this past June. If Black Lives Matter in the streets of Harrisburg, then Black students and schools must matter to him as well – particularly when the collective charter school community is roughly 70% non-White.
Governor Wolf wants accountability in education yet only seeks to reform a law from the late 1990s while continuing to prop up the brokenness of a public school model that pre-dates integration.
That’s just wrong. Pennsylvania’s schoolchildren, regardless of where they are enrolled, deserve better.
The families of more than 169,000 public charter school students are urging their state lawmakers to reject the governor’s attack on charter schools. They ask lawmakers to support fair funding for all public school students in Pennsylvania. PA’s public charter schools continue to work towards this goal and urge school district leaders to join us in calling for no funding cuts for any student.“
Last week, PCPCS unveiled its legislative agenda urging the governor and state lawmakers to ensure fair funding for ALL public schools. To schedule an interview with Lenny, a charter school leader or a charter school parent, please contact Jess Hickernell at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.