Regarding the Feb. 5 editorial in the Observer-Reporter, “Charters on rough waters,” we agree that students should have public school choice, but some points in the editorial miss the mark.
Charters should be compared apples-to-apples with district schools regarding Adequate Yearly Progress, rather than using a statewide average that takes into account the most affluent school districts. Using the most recent calculations for urban schools, in the last year, seven of the 56 schools in the Pittsburgh School District (12.5 percent) made AYP while four of the nine charter schools in the city (44 percent) made AYP. This includes the district’s magnet schools and one charter school that works exclusively with adjudicated children. Moreover, the charter schools achieved those results receiving only 52 percent of what the taxpayer is paying to the district to educate those children. The results are similar in Philadelphia – 13 percent of the district schools and 29 percent of the charters.
As stated, per-pupil funding does go with each student to the charter school but, depending on the school district, that per pupil funding is between 52 and 80 percent of what the taxpayer is paying to the district. The district retains the remainder. We would never argue that cyber education is right for every child, but if the writers have misgivings about the value of cyber education for some children, we suggest they talk with a few of the 34,000 parents who praise the commitment of the teachers and value of the education their children are receiving.
Finally, the editorial argues that the cost of these individual choices shouldn’t be borne by all the taxpayers. This is essentially an argument that choice is OK as long as parents can pay for that choice in addition to what they are paying to the district in school taxes. If you have enough money, you can have choice but, if you don’t, choice should be denied to you and your children. We could not disagree more strongly with that opinion.
Fayfich is the executive director of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools.