Charter Schools

Since the first charter was granted in Minnesota in 1992, Charter Schools have been part of the nation’s conversation about public education.

“This year alone $3.5 million was diverted from this district to fund charter school students from our district.”
– Upper Darby School District School Board meeting, Report of the Superintendent, 2012.

In the Upper Darby School District, about 200 students are being educated through cyber-charter schools – schools without a physical plant. Combined with charters that have physical plants, nearly 500 students in the Upper Darby School District are being educated in charter schools. These schools operate under their own mandate, or charter, and are not constrained by most of the local, State or Federal governance issues affecting a traditional school district’s schools.

In the charter school model, it is important to note:

  • enrollment is capped (not everyone who wants to attend can  attend)
  • services can be limited by the charter schools (special education  students may not be well-served in charter schools and may be forced to choose  traditional district schools)
  • students are not held to the same assessment standards as those attending  traditional public schools.

“…only 20 percent of charters in Philadelphia specifically would have met AYP.”

According to a recent article in Education Week, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) said that without the changes to reporting for Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), which PBSA stated were made specifically for charters, to inflate their performance results, “only 21 percent of charters using the state tests would have met AYP, and only 20 percent of charters in Philadelphia specifically would have met AYP, although the state education department had different estimates.”
View Edweek Article

Whether you are for or against the idea of creating schools – independent from voter controls but funded with local, state and federal funds –is important to understand their impact on traditional school districts. It is also important to note that both cyber charter schools and brick and mortar schools are reimbursed at the same per-student rate, even though cyber charter schools do not have the facilities’ costs that traditional schools bear.

At the September Upper Darby School District School Board of Directors meeting, then-Superintendent of Schools Louis DeVlieger had this to say, as cited by the Daily Times in the September 10th issue:

“No longer are we able to rely on local control to design our district as the community dictates. Today, we are competing on a state, national and international playing field that is totally focused only on student data in reading, math and science. “No longer is public education in America considered as a guaranteed staple of our culture just like apple pie. For some reason, the political agenda in this state and across the country believes that public education is a stale commodity that needs to be replaced by a fresh, new product called charter schools.” DeVlieger notes that Pennsylvania decided to fund charter schools with funds that would have remained within the local schools. “It’s quickly bleeding us to death,” DeVlieger said. “This year alone $3.5 million was diverted from this district to fund charter school students from our district.”

State Level
Charter schools came to Pennsylvania under Ridge, when Charles Zogby, currently the Secretary of the Budget in Pennsylvania, served as State Secretary of Education under Governors Ridge and Schweiker from 2001 to 2003. Prior to serving as Secretary of Education, Zogby was the Director of Governor Ridge’s Policy Office from 1995 to 2001. According to the State’s website, as Director of the Policy Office, Zogby “was responsible for coordinating policy development and initiatives across 18 executive branch agencies. Zogby also helped to put in place several education reforms, including the state’s charter school law, performance-based education funding, a value-added assessment pilot program, and high-stakes academic accountability systems for Pennsylvania school districts.”

It is important to note, and the fact is also listed on the State website, that “Zogby served as the Senior Vice President of Education and Policy for K12 Inc., an online school curriculum developer and provider.”

Federal Level
For more information on the history of charter schools, we recommend the following article, which first appeared in Education Week in 2004 and was updated in 2011:
View Edweek Article

US News summarized a recent analytical study of math and reading results conducted by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University:
View US News Article

The information produced by the US Department of Education lacks any balance to its pro-charter information. Read it here:
View Department of Education Page

Diane Ravitch, a former Assistant Secretary to US Education Secretary Arne Duncan, offers her views on charters:
View Dianne Ravitch Article