My Unanswered Question for Governor Wolf

Governor Wolf continues to use divisive rhetoric that places all the blame for Pennsylvania’s education woes on public charter schools. During his recent press conference at the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators, I came prepared to ask a question, but there was no question and answer session. Here’s the question Wolf avoided:

Good morning, Governor. First, I owe you a debt of gratitude. This past spring, you visited my son’s school in Cumberland Valley School District. The kids loved the opportunity to visit with and interact with you. It was a real treat for the kids, so thank you.

But now here we are, at yet another press conference about charter schools. In fact, you’ve held more press conferences about charter schools over the last three months than charter school visits in five years of your “Schools That Teach” tour. Those schools, as I’m sure you know, serve families who are already marginalized—mostly minority, low-income, and special needs. They’re feeling very much excluded from the political process right now.

My invitation to you, Governor Wolf, is this: Will you visit a charter school with me today? This morning, we’re about two miles from Commonwealth Charter Academy. I’m sure they’d welcome you with open arms. If something closer to the Capitol works better for you, we can visit Capital Area Charter School for the Arts. I’m sure they, or any charter school, would be delighted to receive a visit from their governor.”

I didn’t get to ask my question in person, but my offer still stands. Before finalizing any charter school regulations that will impact 143,000 kids, the governor should visit some charter schools.

In the meantime, parents and teachers have found other ways to share their stories—they’ve taken to editorial pages across the commonwealth to share how charter schools are doing amazing things for their students. And last week, charter students rallied at the Capitol. Chastity Stanczyk explains why she traveled to Harrisburg:

Chastity Stanczyk — Somerset County Parent (1) from 143K Rising on Vimeo.

Now there are indications of a possible legislative “grand bargain,” including a reduction in funding for cyber charter schools in exchange for pro-charter reforms. The reforms are embodied in a group of house bills (HB 355, HB 356, HB 357, and HB 358) that would strengthen ethics requirements, give charters access to district building and testing sites, create a more transparent application process, and allow charter students to participate in dual enrollment programs where they can gain college credit. In addition, the compromise looks to end Wolf’s harmful executive orders that sought to further cut charter funding, limit enrollment, and ban the creation of new charter schools.

Deal or no deal, Governor Wolf should not short change students of charter schools simply because they do not fit into the traditional school district. The right educational environment for a child should always come before the interests of a school system or its administrators.