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Deregulated Charters in Pennsylvania: 20 Years Public School’s Outperform Them!

January 12, 2018

More than any State in the nation, Pennsylvania went all in for charters as a means of improving opportunities for children enrolled in urban school districts and high poverty school districts. At the same time as they opened the door to deregulated for profit schools, Pennsylvania did nothing to rectify the funding disparities baked into their formulas. Now after 20 years, Pennsylvania charter advocates are shocked to discover that their schools are doing worse than the “government schools”! Here’s the report from CBS news in its entirety:

A new report says Pennsylvania charter schools are not outperforming traditional public schools, and the state’s 20-year-old charter law needs to be beefed up.

The report by the nonprofit Public Citizens for Children and Youth says 21 percent of Pennsylvania’s charters made the grade on the state School Performance Profile, while 54 percent of traditional district schools did.

“Most of our charters are performing in Philadelphia — they are struggling as much as Philly schools, or doing worse,” said Donna Cooper, the nonprofit’s executive director.

At a Center City roundtable to issue the report, talk centered on HB97, a charter reform bill in Harrisburg. Grays Ferry state Rep. Jordan Harris voted for the bill.

“I think it’s unfair to take all of the traditional public schools in the state and all of the charter school in the state and compare them to each other,” said Harris.

The report criticizes HB97 because it doesn’t define a high-quality charter, nor does it allow for a chronically failing charter to be shut down quickly.

Larry Feinberg, a member of the board governing the Pennsylvania School Boards Assocition, says there’s consensus that after 20 years under what the state auditor general has called the “worst charter law” in the nation, change is needed.

“I think there’s agreement in all quarters that it needs to be updated,” said Feinberg. “The devil’s in the details.”

I hope that a future report from CBS will probe the highlighted statements above from Mss. Cooper and Harris. Specifically, I’d like to know why Ms. Cooper sees Philadelphia schools as different from other schools in the state and what she believes the schools need to succeed. As for Ms. Harris, I’d like to know why  it is fair to compare all public schools to each other but not fair to compare all charters to all public schools.

I think both of them know that as legislators the only solution to “failing schools” is to provide them with the resources they need to meet the needs of all the children they serve: the same level of resources that the most affluent districts deem necessary to educate their children.

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