Former PSEA Director Says Union Flip-Flopped on Charters

“When I was at PSEA we embraced charter schools.”

Those are surprising words from former PSEA Executive Director Carolyn Dumaresq. And they carry even more weight, given she was Pennsylvania’s secretary of education under Gov. Corbett.

In her view, the primary focus for the adults in the public education system should be the well-being of the children.

“My loyalty is to the children . . . When I was at Steelton-Highspire and Central Dauphin I worked really hard to have a good working relationship with the teachers and the teacher union, and I think what helped was to keep the focus on what’s right for the child.”

Since then, PSEA has spent millions lobbying against education choice for kids, the NEA voted down a resolution to prioritize student learning, and Harrisburg City’s school board denied Dumaresq’s application for a STEAM charter school.

Though it now seems routine for school districts to reject public charter school applications, there’s nothing routine about it for kids who need a quality education. For them, the cost is stark. Dumaresq explains the explicit tradeoff of the rejection. Because her charter application was denied, kids will miss out on their preferred choice of education.

“We’ll miss helping some children because we’re starting with kindergarten, first, and second grade and we had students who had pre-enrolled in the second grade. Now, unless we can get permission, we are in our second year when we open up and we won’t be able to serve those children.”

Students in Harrisburg and other failing districts have been waiting for years for grown-ups to fix the system. They need help now. That’s why Speaker Mike Turzai has proposed scholarships for kids in Harrisburg to escape schools that don’t meet their needs—which is particularly urgent in a district beleaguered by violence, poor academic outcomes, and mismanagement.

Every child deserves the chance to thrive in a school that meets their needs. Carolyn Dumaresq said it best: Parents are “right to choose where that child should go.”