Alternative truths told about charter schools

The numerous factual errors and misleading statements in the “School choice: Eyes wide open” opinion piece that appeared in the Feb. 3 issue of the Centre Daily Times provide an extremely poor foundation for any well-informed understanding of charter schools. Here are some of the most egregiously inaccurate statements which I welcome any reader to check for accuracy.

“The majority of these schools (charters) are for-profit entities…”. Wrong. By law, every charter school in the state must be a nonprofit organization or it cannot be a school. There are no for-profit charter schools in Pennsylvania.

“While the law states that school districts have oversight responsibility for the charter schools in their jurisdiction, in practice this has not been the case …” Wrong. Authorizing districts have absolute oversight responsibility for every brick and mortar charter school in the state. Charters can appeal district decisions to the Charter Appeals Board and the Commonwealth Court, which may overrule a district if it has acted illegally.

“The cash payout per pupil is the same regardless of the school (district or charter) attended.” Wrong. For every child who moves from a district school to a charter, the home district must complete a PDE Form 363, which requires the district to take its expenditures from the previous year, make up to 21 deductions and then divide by the number of students in the district. The remainder is passed through to the charter school to educate that child. Statewide, the average going to the charter is between 70 and 80 percent of the money spent on a child in the district school.

“Many charter schools have learned to ‘cherry pick’ these less expensive (special education) students…” Wrong. As a public school, charters are legally required to enroll every child who applies, subject only to the capacity of the charter school, and cannot screen for any reason. If there are any confirmed instances where this is happening, the charter school should change or be closed.

“There should be a level playing field; the requirements for financial reports for public and charter schools ought to be identical.” Agree. Charter schools are required to file every financial report required to be filed by districts plus those required to be filed to their authorizer.

And this is just the beginning of the misleading information.

It is often said that people have the right to their own opinion, but not their own facts. Unfortunately, it appears that alternative truths are as alive and well in State College as they are in Washington.

Robert Fayfich is executive director of Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools.