Our children deserve the best, most individually-tailored education available. Sadly, most students in urban districts cannot access educational opportunities. It's a paradox: Pennsylvania schools are receiving more funds than ever—ranking ninth in the nation—yet no performance improvement or decreased drop-out rate has resulted.
In many ways, our education funding is backwards. We fund systems, sectors, or buildings instead of students themselves.
According to a recent University of Arkansas study of 14 cities with high charter school concentrations, charter school students average 27 percent ($5,825) less funding than traditional public school students. In Philadelphia, school districts spend $24,597 per student as charter schools educate students for only $13,588.
Charter school students average 27 percent ($5,825) less funding than traditional public school students. Right here in Philadelphia, school districts spend $24,597 per student while charter schools educate students for only $13,588.
Philly charter schools are doing more with less. That's why 120,000 applications were submitted to Philly charter schools last year. Despite these schools' lower funding, they remain wildly popular.
But why should Pennsylvania students automatically settle for less funding because they choose an alternative to their zip-code-assigned district school? And why depict funding following students as ‘stealing’ funds from the district? Isn’t the function of public education to give every student the best possible education?
There are three main problems thwarting charter school growth and keeping students from the best schools for their needs.
- Lack of access. Demand far exceeds available charter seats. One popular Philly charter school had only 14 ninth grade openings and more than 2,100 applicants. We need to expand charter school capacity and eliminate waitlists so students can get the education they want. More students attending charters will only help foster a competitive environment, perhaps even improving district schools.
- Lack of information. Without proper resources, families find it difficult to navigate the system to determine which options are best for their kids. Combined with the difficulty of getting accepted into a charter, parents are getting more frustrated as they realize the few options available to their children.
- Lack of a fair and effective authorization process. Currently, school districts are pitted against families who increasingly choose charters over district-run schools. But without a authorizing entity independent from the district, fewer charter school applications will be accepted—and more students will be denied opportunities.
The need for alternatives for families cannot be understated. Yet thousands are waitlisted and forced to attend their geography-determined schools.
Our students are not second-class citizens. They deserve the opportunities that charter schools can provide.