Do you want to understand why Pennsylvania’s charter school law needs to be reformed?

Let Steven Singer explain.

Singer teaches in Pennsylvania. In this post, he describes the dangers that privatization poses to his school district.

I work in a little suburban school district just outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, that is slowly being destroyed by privatization.

Steel Valley Schools have a proud history.

We’re located (in part) in Homestead – the home of the historic steel strike of 1892.

But today it isn’t private security agents and industrial business magnates against whom we’re struggling.

It’s charter schools, voucher schools and the pro-corporate policies that enable them to pocket tax dollars meant to educate kids and then blame us for the shortfall.

Our middle school-high school complex is located at the top of a hill. At the bottom of the hill in our most impoverished neighborhood sits one of the Propel network of charter schools.

Our district is so poor we can’t even afford to bus our kids to school. So Propel tempts kids who don’t feel like making the long walk to our door.

Institutions like Propel are publicly funded but privately operated. That means they take our tax dollars but don’t have to be as accountable, transparent or sensible in how they spend them.

And like McDonalds, KFC or Walmart, they take in a lot of money.

Just three years ago, the Propel franchise siphoned away $3.5 million from our district annually. This year, they took $5 million, and next year they’re projected to get away with $6 million. That’s about 16% of our entire $37 million yearly budget.

Do we have a mass exodus of children from Steel Valley to the neighboring charter schools?

No.

Enrollment at Propel has stayed constant at about 260-270 students a year since 2015-16. It’s only the amount of money that we have to pay them that has increased.


The state funding formula is a mess. It gives charter schools almost the same amount per regular education student that my district spends but doesn’t require that all of that money actually be used to educate these children.

If you’re a charter school operator and you want to increase your salary, you can do that. Just make sure to cut student services an equal amount.

Want to buy a piece of property and pay yourself to lease it? Fine. Just take another slice of student funding.

Want to grab a handful of cash and put it in your briefcase, stuff it down your pants, hide it in your shoes? Go right ahead! It’s not like anyone’s actually looking over your shoulder. It’s not like your documents are routinely audited or you have to explain yourself at monthly school board meetings – all of which authentic public schools like mine have to do or else.

Read the rest of the post.