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People in the burbs need to worry about charter schools, too...

I recently attended a panel discussion sponsored by the Media chapter of the NAACP. The topic was charter school expansion and it was quite eye opening. As it turns out, the push for "school choice" is directly connected to resistance to the desegregation of public schools under Brown v. Board of Ed. in 1954.

"The Supreme Court’s unanimous Brown decision, handed down on 17 May 1954, determined that the Plessy doctrine of ‘‘separate but equal’’ had no place in education and violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote: ‘‘To separate [blacks] from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone’’ (347 U.S. 483 [1954]). With this decision, racial segregation in schools became unconstitutional."

Guess when the idea for "School Choice" was imagined by economist, Milton Friedman?  1955.
Friedman wrote about his desire for parents to chose if their children would attend racially desegregated schools:

" Under (a choice) system, there can develop exclusively white schools, exclusively colored schools, and mixed schools. Parents can choose which to send their children to. The appropriate activity for those who oppose segregation and racial prejudice is to try to persuade others of their views; if and as they succeed, the mixed schools will grow at the expense of the nonmixed, and a gradual transition will take place. So long as the school system is publicly operated, only drastic change is possible; one must go from one extreme to the other; it is a great virtue of the private arrangement that it permits a gradual transition."

People who promote "school choice" should really learn the history. It comes from a place of prejudice and carries that forward to today added to greed. Charter schools financially kill public schools. Since not all children are accepted to charters, ironically many children are "left behind" in understaffed, crumbling schools that have become test prep factories.

Why should people in the suburbs worry about charters? Because there is a Senate Bill (1085) in Pennsylvania, as well as a House Bill (618) that are trying to make charter schools the new normal. Charter schools are not equal to public schools. 
See an example on the chart below. FYI, charters tend to select the least needy special education students. Public schools teach & welcome all children.

Check out this list of the Top 5 Reasons Senators Should oppose SB 1085:

1. SB1085 would allow colleges and universities to authorize new charter schools without local approval. In other words: IT DOESN'T MATTER IF YOUR SCHOOL BOARD DOESN'T WANT THE CHARTER.

2. SB1085 would eliminate enrollment caps on charter schools. This will allow for the unfettered expansion of charter schools in PA. Charters need to be accountable to the public in the same ways that public schools are. They are being given public school dollars and have little to no accountability.

3. SB1085 would increase the initial term of a charter from 3 years to 5 years, and allow a charter school to be granted a 10 year renewal. We should not allow these experimental schools to expand unfettered.

4. SB1085 would allow two or more charters to consolidate and transfer oversight to the PA Department of Education; local taxpayers would still pay the tuition. Taxation without representation, period.

5. SB1085 would remove the provision that requires charter applications to be evaluated based on the extent to which the school may serve as a model for other public schools.  Charters started out as temporary schools that would experiment with unique ways of reaching students. The idea was to share what worked with the public school system, then close the charter once the ideas that worked were implemented. This Bill removes the important concept that charters should serve as a model. Why?


I'll leave you with this on cyber charters:

Our kids are $ to cyber charters with no brick & mortar bills to pay. Special education students are even more $$$ for them. And the shocker is that many cyber students stop "attending" and there are no truancy laws to oversee this. 

"Pennsylvania is overrun with cyber charters. There are 16 of them competing for customers, sucking money out of real public schools, supplying a terrible education. Some are under investigation. The legislature protects them because of campaign contributions.
Meanwhile public schools are suffering due to budget cuts while these sham schools make profits.
They have extracted $4 billion from the state’s taxpayers in inflated costs, padded enrollment data, and legislative beneficence. This is legal graft."

The kicker: It is extremely likely that even your suburban school district has at least a handful of students taking the district money with them to a PA cyber school. 
Ask your district.

First, they came for the urban they are stalking us. Consider yourselves warned.


  1. While your argument and position are easily understood - I notice that you've missed something. Choice does not just mean choice for white parents and students it means choice for all parents and students.

    Being from California, we've already worked out the parental choice issues and the Charter school issues. I actually had my children in a charter school for two years (and I took a job there as their bookkeeper - so I've got a lot of insider knowledge). While the style of education (Montessori) did not turn out to be the best fit for my kids - the school was a good school. They did not get the same per-pupil allocation as a school district does - in California all charters are required to be dependent charters. In addition to the district taking a cut of the per pupil budget for doing nothing (truly, nothing) they also charged the school $35,000 a month to use a closed school that was not to code. In addition to this, they required the school to hire and pay for district janitorial and cafeteria staff for thousands more per month. The credentialed teachers got paid a little less per hour than the public school teachers (no union and no need to pay union dues - so they took it all home themselves). We used state approved/adopted curriculum, met state standards and took state standardized tests to track students academic progress.

    The school wasn't in the best shape, but it was a happy place. Students were enrolled by lottery - so there was no way to know who was a special needs student until after enrollment occurred. They had special education aids and reading aids and on-site counselors and all the support the kids needed to be successful. They had low class sizes (20 max in all grades k - 8). They had art, music, dance, science, field trips, PE - all the things slowly disappearing from California schools.

    In Connecticut they jailed a Hispanic mother for enrolling her kids in a school outside her home district by claiming they lived with their grandmother. State of Black Connecticut Alliance pursued this injustice until they got the laws changed in Connecticut so parents desperately seeking a better opportunity don't have to lie to do it.

    My nephew attends California Virtual Academy online and has for three years (in high school). He lives in a rough part of Los Angeles - going to school safely was no longer an option for him. His Mom took the logical step - she got her kid out of the dangerous school. She put him into a rigorous online education program and he has excelled. He has already passed the California Exit Exam, is tracking with more credits than he needs to graduate, and is still excited about school three years into high school. As a student of color, he could have been another drop-out statistic, now he's on his way to becoming an audio engineer - already being contacted by colleges interested in him because of his high academic achievement.

    So while some of the things you say about charters and cyber charters may be true in your area of the world (and I love the passion with which you address issues of importance to you) I hope you will have an opportunity to learn about some of the good things associated with parent choice.

  2. I greatly appreciate your experience and perspective. As someone who turns to the NAACP for their perspective, I trust that they have a good pulse on how charter schools help or hinder public school students of color. I don't pretend to have first hand knowledge and know that I always have more to learn. That said, cyber charters have very low success rates and take a lot of money out of the public school systems. It is great that your nephew is finding success. I wish that for all children. It seems that our government is getting off easy allowing cyber schools to take the place of a safe and appropriate education. They should be held accountable. I understand and respect a mother's decision to keep her child safe. It just seems like keeping children behind a screen in their homes is a very isolating way to learn.
    I worry that not only does it separate children, but it may be unequal.


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