MACFARLAND: Why Chester County Families Need a Charter School
In May 1, 2023, the Board of Education of the Valley Forge Classical Academy submitted an application for a Charter School to the West Chester Area School District (WCASD). The application and addendums were over 500 pages. Additional documents, including the complete K-8 Alignment of the curriculum to the PA Standards and the entire Program (Curriculum Guide) totaling over 900 pages, were submitted a week later at the request of the District.
Already, school choice detractors are spreading misinformation about charter schools. I am taking a few moments to ensure that the facts about charter schools are available.
FACT ONE: CHARTER SCHOOLS ARE PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Charter Schools MUST abide by the same laws that the traditional public schools must follow. That includes implementing IEP’s and 504s, non-promotion or teaching of religion (except in its relation to historical events), accepting ALL applicants regardless of race, color, religion, and no screening of applicants (such as entrance tests).
FACT TWO: THE HILLSDALE K12 CURRICULUM
All of Hillsdale’s Member Schools provide an education that is both classical and American in its orientation. It is rooted in the liberal arts and sciences, offers a firm grounding in civic virtue, cultivates moral character, and teaches and supports universal values.
FACT THREE: CHARTER SCHOOLS DO NOT DRAIN DISTRICT BUDGETS
Charter Schools bill the child’s home district for the instructional expenses needed for the enrolled child. The billed amount is not 100 percent of the per pupil expenditures of the district. In fact, the district subtracts transportation and administrative fees off the top, and the charter school is provided about 70% of the per pupil expenditure. So, for example, if the home district has approximately $20,000 per pupil expenditure in the district, as in the case of the West Chester Area School District, the charter school payment is about 30% less than that or approximately $14,000. Consequently, the WCASD is paying LESS to educate charter children than those enrolled in the district and keeping the difference of $6000 in their pockets! Right now, WCASD budget shows only about 2 percent of its funds go to charter schools….and those funds are educating children residing in the WCASD, not those coming from another nearby district!
The truth is that the taxpayers of the West Chester Area School District DO NOT “pay for the school” as I heard someone claim. The district pays only for the students in the WCASD that attend the charter. Your taxes are not going up because of the addition of a charter school. Public schools in Pennsylvania are allowed by law to raise taxes per the Act 1 index for their school district EVERY YEAR, and they do so, with or without cause. Charter schools are just the scapegoat.
In addition, right now we have 93 students pre-enrolled, and most of them are NOT from the WCASD.
FACT FOUR: CHARTER SCHOOLS EMPLOY CERTIFIED TEACHERS
Charter Schools must hire at least 80 percent state certified staff. They are given some leeway in hiring non-certified staff for in-demand positions, such as a high school physics or math teachers. The state requires that person be emergency certified, meaning a temporary grant of certification, while completing the requirements over a specific time period. Or in the case of a drama teacher or the like, in which there is no state certification, yet the program is offered at the school. ALL staff must provide clearances and background checks to be hired.
FACT FIVE: CHARTER SCHOOLS OUTPERFORM PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Forbes Magazine ran this story in 2018, by Emily Langhorn: Five Reasons Why Independent Charters Outperform In-District Autonomous Schools. The article states they have autonomy; are schools of choice; are held accountable for student performance; go through a careful authorization process; are sustainable.
FACT SIX: VALLEY FORGE CLASSICAL ACADEMY IS A NON-PROFIT SCHOOL
Valley Forge Classical Academy Charter School is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. All of the people working on bringing this school to the community are VOLUNTEERS and have generously donated their time and talents to ensure a strong application. None have received any remuneration for their work. All of the people who have donated their time and talents strongly believe in parental choice and in this particular school model. We believe that a curriculum that meets or exceeds Pennsylvania State Standards and has high expectations for all students is sorely needed, not only in Chester County, but across the nation, and we are willing to devote our energies to make it happen.
The real argument here is whether or not you believe in parental choice. Do you believe that all children must attend the public school supported by their parent’s tax money? Or do you believe that parents should have the right to determine where their children and their tax money should go? Does one teaching style serve all learners? Do larger schools turn out better students and citizens? Are smaller schools safer?
The beauty of a charter school is that if it doesn’t fit your child or align with your beliefs, your child doesn’t have to attend there! Doesn’t a parent of a child for whom the traditional public schools aren’t working deserve the same?
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