Pennsylvania Legislators Want You to Foot the Bill for Unimpeded Charter School Growth With Little Accountability

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Fund my charter school.

Come on, Pennsylvania.

Let me just swipe tax dollars you set aside to educate your children and put them into my personal bank account as profit.

Please!

I’ll be your best friend. Or at least I’ll be your legislator’s best friend.

Chances are, I already am.

That’s why lawmakers in Harrisburg are once again looking to pass a school code bill (House Bill 530) that would let charter schools expand exponentially almost completely unchecked and without having to do any of that nasty, sticky accountability stuff you demand of your traditional public schools.

Sure there are a few provisions in there to make charters fill out more paperwork, but the benefits for privatization and profitization of your child’s education are huge!

For me, that is. For your child, not so much.

For instance, the proposed legislation would set up a charter school funding advisory commission. This august body would have many duties including the ability to authorize charter schools in your local school district.

No longer would prospective charter operators have to come before your duly-elected board members and plead and beg to set up shop and suck away hard to come by education funding. They could just appear before the commission and sidestep your local democracy completely.

Who will be on this commission? I’m glad you asked.

We’ve got eight legislators. Got to give THEM a voice. But they’re usually pretty cheap. A few bucks in the re-election campaign and we’ll be golden. We’ll also have the state secretary of education and the chairman of the state board. We’ve got to make the thing look legit, right?

But here’s the best part! We’ll have four public education representatives and FIVE representatives of the charter school industry!

Isn’t that great!? There are significantly more traditional public schools throughout the state, but they’ll have less representation on the commission! It’s stacked with charter friendly votes! The forces of privatization have a built-in majority! Ring the dinner bell, Baby! Once this bill gets passed, it’s charter school time all across the Commonwealth!

Okay. There is a downside. Commissioners can’t be outright voting members of charter boards or their families. And if they’re being paid by charters they have to sign a sworn statement admitting that fact. Also, no criminals – no one convicted of fraud, theft, malfeasance.

Sucks, I know, but we’ll find a way around it. Don’t you worry.

However, the best is yet to come. Once a charter school has been given the go-ahead to exist, the proposed bill allows it to expand without getting permission from anyone!

That’s right! No commission, no local school board, nobody.

If there are children on the waiting list to get in, we have to take them first, but then we can start enrolling kids from outside the district!

Yes! Outside the district!

Here’s what the bill actually says:

“If a charter school or regional charter school and the school district from which it is authorized have voluntarily capped enrollment or the district attempts to involuntarily cap enrollment of resident students and the charter school or regional charter school has enrolled the maximum number of resident students, the charter school or regional charter school may enroll students residing outside of the district.”

This would appear to allow charters to enroll kids outside of the district and still charge the district to pay for them!

But wait, there’s more! If charter operators want to expand in any way, they can – unless they agree not to. If operators want to add more grades, they can. If we want to consolidate one charter school with another, we can! Meanwhile all this expansion sucks away local tax dollars to pay for students that don’t even live there!

I drink your milkshake,” traditional public schools!

So while public schools are shrinking due to loss of funds to unchecked charter expansion, this proposed bill adds insult to injury. If a traditional public school has to close a building or even has a few empty classrooms, charter schools get the right to buy or rent them out before anyone else!

I see you’ve got 7 empty class rooms in your school building. Charter School X will rent those from you. Maybe next year, we can rent out the rest of the floor once we’re done slurping up all your funding!

But wait! There’s more!

We now get to my favorite part of the proposed bill. (Do I keep saying that? It’s just such a gorgeous piece of legislation. ALEC has really outdone themselves writing it!)

We get educational tax credits. That’s school vouchers, folks!

I know, I know. The state legislature tried to pass a voucher system (Senate Bill 1) in 2011, and it was soundly defeated because it was so unpopular.

Three out of Four Pennsylvanians didn’t like that it gave state tax dollars to charters, private and parochial schools without any accountability. Well, guess what folks!? There’s hardly any accountability in this here bill, too!

Here’s how it works. You donate $X to a voucher school and we just take that off of your taxes. And if that’s the same or more than you’d normally pay for, let’s say, public school taxes, then all of your money goes to voucher schools.

It’s not really new. We’ve been quietly encouraging this kind of thing for a while now. This bill just expands it.

It allows public tax dollars to be used by religious schools – a clear violation of the Separation of Church and State. But who cares? Let’s leave that up to the courts. How dare they try to violate state’s rights. And all that. Etc. Etc.

But it’s not all robbing public schools and enriching corporate charter school operators. There are a few sticking points.

For the first time, the proposed bill allows local school boards access to charter financial and personnel records. We even have to submit to full audits. And our teachers will be subject to the same pseudo-scientific evaluations as traditional public school teachers.

In addition, charter schools will have to undergo a whole new evaluation “matrix” to show that they’re doing a good job.

I know. It sounds a lot like what traditional public schools have to undergo right now. It sounds absolutely untenable.

But here’s the difference. This new evaluation system for charters carries absolutely no consequences!

Tee-Hee!

That’s right! Even if charters fail these evaluations, the state can’t do diddley squat to them! Not so with traditional public schools. If THEY fail to show progress, they can be closed down and turned into… charter schools!

Oh! It is a beautiful time to be alive!

If this bill passes, charter school operators will have it made in the shade.

Cut student services and increase corporate profits? Check!

Kick out special education and other hard to teach students? Check!

Escape almost any kind of accountability for our actions? YOU BET!

Pennsylvania lawmakers could bring this bill to the floor anytime now.

It’s up to you, lawmakers. Do you want to keep getting tons of campaign cash from our industry or do you represent those – yuck – voters?

Do the right thing. Or should I say, do the right cha-ching!

Did you see that? Did you see what I just did there?

I am a cad. I mean… card.


In all seriousness, if you live in Pennsylvania, please, contact your legislators and ask them to oppose this terrible bill. The Network for Public Education has made it very easy. Just click HERE and you can shoot off a letter to your representatives in moments.

Oppose HB 530. Fight for public education.

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9 thoughts on “Pennsylvania Legislators Want You to Foot the Bill for Unimpeded Charter School Growth With Little Accountability

  1. We here in NYC no longer even have “duly elected board members” who may rightfully oppose charter expansion.
    Thanks in large part to the support of AFT President Randi Weingarten (when she was UFT President and the controlling influence in NYSUT), Mayor Bloomberg obtained NYS Legislative approval for mayoral control in NYC in 2002.
    With dictatorial powers in hand, Bloomberg proceeded to implement the national education reform agenda here with a vengeance.
    The UFT, now under the leadership of President Mulgrew continues to support mayoral control (with some tweaks).
    With the election of Mayor DiBlasio, his modest effort to control charter push ins were quickly slapped down by Eva Moscowitz’s (Success Academy) staged protests in Albany and Gov Cuomo who is closely allied with the hedge funded charters.
    If there was ever any doubt as to the main purpose of mayoral control over the large urban public school systems, these illusions should have been dispersed by now. Unfortunately this is not the case with regards to our union leadership. This suggests that there is more at work here than simple illusion or absence of foresight for after decades, AFT/UFT leadership support for education reform (with tweaks of course) continues.
    Here in NYC we see that when the mayor balks at the program, the Gov will step in, and I think if a new Gov were to balk, the Feds would step in to implement the education reform they began with “A Nation At Risk” during Reagan’s term of office and was passed with bipartisan support in 2001 with “No Child Left Behind”.
    Here again it merits noting that AFT President Shanker endorsed A Nation At Risk and earned his “seat at the table” from its onset. Weingarten is still bragging about AFT support for the primary federal education law (see “Honoring Our Past and Inspiring our Future, American Educator Summer ’16).
    I think that AFT members bearing the brunt of education reform (rightly termed a “deform” by critics) for decades now should take the time to inquire into the roots of this disastrous collaboration between the AFT leadership and proponents of ‘reform.’
    Any credible opposition to the current misleadership of teacher unionism has to account for the prevalence of this collaboration over generations and how they propose to disentangle teacher unionism from the neo-liberal neo-con consensus.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a legislated license to make theft legal — a perfect storm for frauds, cheats and thieves. And to think, to create this perfect profit storm, the elected corrupt are willing to throw OUR children under a tank and let the tank roll over them crushing their spirits and any chances that they will grow up loving to learn and read.

    Be warned publishers and colleges, In a decade or two the sales of books will plummet into an abyss and so will enrollment in the nation’s collages. And contrary to popular rumors that no one reads anymore, the publishing industry isn’t dying, but under the autocratic corporate education industry’s rank and punish mentality, I think those sales will start falling soon as children learn to hate education and reading.

    Currently “The United States has the largest publishing industry in the world – in 2012 the U.S. market was worth just under 30 billion euro and represented around 26 percent of the total global publishing market. The book publishing industry claimed the lion’s share of that amount, with revenues totaling almost 29.5 billion dollars in the same year, a number which has since decreased to only 29 billion dollars. The market currently appears to be relatively stagnant, as both revenue and unit sales have failed to show significant changes in recent years.”

    The odds are that another U.S. ranking will soon fall as children learn to hate learning as they are punished and mentally tortured and bulled repeatedly.

    The U.S. is currently ranked the 4th most educated country in the world thanks to the traditional, community based, democratic, transparent, non-profit public schools with a long history of success regardless of the lies and misconceptions paid for by the likes of Arne Duncan, David Coleman, Bill Gates, the union busting, poverty wage paying Walmart Waltons, Eli Broad, etc.

    http://www.educationnews.org/higher-education/most-educated-countries/

    You cannot punish people into loving something.

    Liked by 1 person

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