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Charter Schools: Teachers’ Unions Favorite Boogeyman

charter schools

Public charter schools empower parents by giving them options for their children’s education. Because most charter school teachers decide against forming a union and provide competition for traditional public schools, teachers’ unions and their allies have made charter schools into a boogeyman. Since becoming Governor, Tom Wolf has been openly hostile to charter schools and attempted to reduce their funding at every turn.

On last week’s CAPitalist Cast, which you can find below, CAP CEO Leo Knepper had a chance to talk with Lenny McAllister about how charter schools are funded and how they’ve handled the challenges created by COVID 19. Mr. McAllister is the CEO of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools. It was a fantastic opportunity to explore the role these schools play in educating the next generation of Pennsylvanians.

Mr. McAllister has written several opinion columns recently. We found some of the information they included fascinating. Below are excerpts and links to the articles. 

The first article from Mr. McAllister, co-authored by Amber Northern and published by the Daily Signal, details the funding myths pedaled by teachers’ unions and their political allies (emphasis added):

“Contrary to charter critics’ preferred narrative, total revenues per pupil increased in most states as the percentage of local students who enrolled in charter schools rose…Simply put, charter schools in Pennsylvania receive less money than district schools. For example, a recent study estimated that Pennsylvania charter schools received $12,175 per pupil, while traditional public schools would have received $17,989 for those same students

“According to University of Arkansas researchers, “The state funding formula for charter schools begins with the same amount of funding as a charter school’s home district, but then subtracts up to 21 categories of prior-year district expenditures,” resulting in a funding disparity that favors districts.

“In other words, the host districts get to keep the subtracted funds…districts were actually being paid more to educate fewer students.” 

On the subject of cyber-charters from GoErie (emphasis added):

A report showed that roughly one-fourth of the third through eighth grade cohort, including a disproportionate number of socioeconomically challenged students, did not take specific annual academic assessments.

In Pennsylvania, these issues have cropped up for months in school districts despite district officials telling lawmakers for years that they could provide online academic instruction better and cheaper than public cyber charter schools. The pandemic has proven otherwise — here at home and around America.

“In contrast, public cyber charter families didn’t miss a beat.

Pennsylvania’s cyber charters have been teaching online for more than 20 years. These schools know how to use technology to educate large numbers of students at home. As a result, thousands of families exercised their right under Pennsylvania law to choose a public cyber charter school for their children...The “blame game” has ramped up from school district officials and education unions. They complain that their money is lost to public charter schools — especially cyber charter schools. However, it’s not their money. It’s state funding allocated for education in Pennsylvania, regardless of where a student attends a public school.

Public charter schools are public schools – just like those in local school districts, but simply operating at roughly three-fourths of the cost.

On the importance of school choice to ensuring racial equality, from USA Today:

“Families who have chosen to enroll their children in public charter schools deserve to know with certainty that the new [Biden] administration understands, values and supports their choice. These 7,500 unique public schools educate about 3.3 million children across the USA, mostly from Black and brown families.

“These children have the ability to thrive in innovative public schools that best suit their needs for life, with teachers who look more like them and curriculum that is malleable to fit diverse backgrounds and learning preferences. These schools are effective at teaching our nation’s nuanced history and developing students not only with strong academic foundations but also with self-esteem and civic awareness.”

The USA Today article also profiles three outstanding examples of Black educators working to improve educational opportunities in the communities.

The best way to counter Governor Wolf’s narrative about education funding is to be armed with the facts. We hope that you find this information and the conversation with Mr. McAllister helpful in this regard.