York community rallies against the corporate takeover of public schools
This fall, the York City School Board will decide whether to hand over the education of every child in the city to a private charter operator. York Concerned Clergy and the NAACP are standing with educators, parents, and community members to speak out against this corporate takeover of the York City School District.
At rallies on Sept. 17 and 24, parents, educators, students, and religious leaders called on the school board to reject the bids of two out-of-state charter corporations competing to take over the city's public schools.
The York community's fight to stop the charter takeover has garnered national attention, with Politico, education expert Diane Ravitch, and other prominent bloggers raising questions about the impact on students and local taxpayers.
Becky Pringle, a Pennsylvania teacher and Vice President of the National Education Association, joined York parents and community leaders at the Sept. 24 rally and urged the school board to oppose the plan in a blog post.
"The York privatization plan won’t save taxpayers one dime. But it will cost them a voice in how their schools are run," Pringle wrote on Anthony Cody's Living in Dialogue Blog. "Converting their schools
to corporate charters will do nothing but line the pockets of private companies and their CEOs."
State Rep. Kevin Schreiber (D-York) also stood with the York community at the Sept. 24 rally, saying students should not be treated as guinea pigs in this risky charter experiment.
"If you are to subject our students in York to a different type of education than any other student in the commonwealth…that’s fundamentally wrong," Schreiber said in a Fox 43 report.
No other district in Pa.
The charterization would be a first for any school district in Pennsylvania, and it's being driven by Gov. Tom Corbett’s handpicked “chief recovery officer,” David Meckley. He says that York must hand over its public schools to a for-profit corporation because there is not enough money to continue operating them.
York City educators have partnered with clergy and community organizations to make sure that does not happen. They are educating York parents and community members about what this plan would mean: a loss of any say in how the city's schools are run, while an out-of-state corporation calls all the shots.
Educators know the real reason York's schools – and countless others across Pennsylvania – are struggling: because Gov. Corbett cut nearly $1 billion from our public schools in 2011, causing struggling school districts like York City to increase class sizes, furlough educators, and eliminate programs that help students succeed.
"These attempted takeovers of school districts by for-profit charter schools have not been successful in other communities," said Sandra Thompson, an attorney and president of York NAACP. "It will only be successful here in York City if the York City School Board refuses to fight for its parents and students and employees.”
A risky experiment
The York City School Board is reviewing proposals from Charter Schools USA and Mosaica to take over every one of the city's public schools. Neither company has a good track record when it comes to actually teaching kids.
Mosaica took over the Muskegon Heights Public School Academy System in Michigan in 2012. Staff quickly left, and Mosaica was fined more than $90,000 for hiring uncertified teachers. Mosaica ended up walking away after only two years of a five-year contract because it couldn’t turn a profit.
“If a for-profit charter like Mosaica comes in like it did in Michigan and walks away because it can't make enough money, where will that leave our kids and our community?” asked Clovis Gallon, a teacher and member of the York City Education Association.
Charter Schools USA was contracted to operate three schools in Indianapolis, starting with the 2012-13 school year. Students have left the schools in such high numbers that the schools now serve about half of the students they did before Charter Schools USA came in. Outcomes at the schools have worsened despite the fact that Charter Schools USA received and kept more than $6 million of “misappropriated” state funds for 1,800 students who never enrolled in schools operated by the company.
The Rev. Aaron Willford Jr. of Bethlehem Baptist Church said the corporate takeover experiment in York is a part of “an agenda for failure” for the district.
“Compared to traditional public schools, charter schools in Pennsylvania typically underperform on state-mandated tests,” said Rev. Willford. “So why should York City students be the guinea pigs of some profit-driven experiment? Who benefits? Not our children!”
Nearly 4,000 people signed a petition presented to the York City School Board on Sept. 17 opposing the corporate takeover of York City Schools. More people are signing on every day. Add your name to the petition and find other ways to take action against the corporate takeover at www.psea.org/yorkcity.