In the upcoming Philadelphia mayoral race, big money is making its presence felt. What is surprising is that the big money (from three investors in Susquehanna Investors) expect something in return. What, how can that be?
The three investors are not reticent to acknowledge they expect the potential Mayor to be sympathetic to their cause – more charter schools in the impoverished section of Philadelphia.
Philadelphia, like other large cities, has a huge problem with K-12 education, especially in the 9-12 grades. By this age, the poverty condition from which many of the students come, has subverted the high school’s educational mission into simply survival from gang-like dysfunctional behavior. How can students who want to learn attain an education in this type of environment?
The answer, these investors have said is to syphon the brighter, willing to study students from public schools and put them into charter schools. For parents who fear for their children, this is a very appealing alternative.
The growth of charter schools in other large cities has already answered similar needs for parents so the idea is not novel. The political battle pitting teacher’s unions, school administrators, educational experts, and local residents, however, has settled on a certain number of charters. These investors want to target the poorest sections of Philadelphia and increase the number of charters in these districts. What’s wrong with this?
The Philadelphia situation is close to desperate with graduation rates hovering around 50% and institutional poverty only getting worse as so many young men and women enter the work force with no degree and no skills. Worse, Pennsylvania State legislature has no interest in sending more money for Philadelphia school and the Philadelphia City Counsel is reluctant to raise taxes to close school budget gaps. The conditions of schools in the poorest districts are just getting worse. So again, what’s wrong with charters?
The short answer is charters lead to the increasing the concentration of disciplinary and special needs students in the already dysfunctional schools. More charter schools is equivalent to throwing less fit people out of the life boat so that those more educationally competitive can survive. Hmmm.
If charter schools were required to accept the same population as the public school it replaced, and the non-union, the highly motivated teachers and administrators were put to the task of out performing the current union teachers and legacy administrators, this experiment would soon determine whether “selectivity” or “charter/public was the route to better schools.
Regrettably, more charters shed no light upon what to do with those students who are not taken into a charter school. Maybe these investors “money” has some ideas about that too.