Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Charter Growth Linked to Districts' Losses

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Charter Growth Linked to Districts' Losses

Article excerpt

An Economic Policy Institute paper out this week has linked rapidly growing charter schools in some urban districts to a lack of resources and budget shortfalls in traditional school systems, leading to greater inequities for children overall.

The report released Wednesday, by Bruce D. Baker, professor in the Department of Educational Theory, Policy and Administration at Rutgers University, focused on public school districts that have experienced the largest shifts of students to charters - public schools run by private entities - including Philadelphia and Chester Upland.

In the 2015-16 school year, there were 132,840 Pennsylvania students enrolled in charter schools, more than half of them in Philadelphia, according to the state Department of Education. More than 150 brick-and-mortar charter schools and 14 cybercharters operate in the commonwealth.

Mr. Baker wrote that although charter schools are expanding in mostly low-income and mainly minority urban settings, that growth "is not driven by well-known, high-profile operators." Traditional school systems, he continued, are "surviving but under increased stress," a theme echoed by traditional school district representatives at a recent hearing on the topic.

"The impact on the residents in these communities is really profound, especially where finances are concerned," Alan N. Johnson, Woodland Hills superintendent, said this week. He was among the school leaders who testified at the Oct. 13 proceeding in Monroeville that focused on the role of charter schools in Pennsylvania education.

Woodland Hills has lost more than 1,000 students to about a dozen charter schools, Mr. Johnson said. The district provides transportation for all of them and pays $11,000 a year in tuition for each student. For special-education students the district pays about $30,000. …

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