For parents like me who value the PA Distance Learning Charter School, along with other charter and cyber charter schools that their children are enrolled in, what is going on in the state of Pennsylvania is troubling.
Governor Tom Wolf is advancing Regulation 6–349 as his agenda to change the structure of charter schools. Instead of these schools operating as independent entities, as they were originally intended to, he desires for them to become more accountable and transparent. Simply stated, the Pennsylvania Governor wants the structure of charter schools to become more aligned to the uniform structure of traditional public school districts.
To me, this erroneously implies that the leaders and educators who have taken the initiative to develop and provide a high-quality learning alternative for the students and families they serve cannot be trusted by the governor as well as those who have aligned themselves with his perspective. This is more deeply interpreted as the State Department of Education assuming an autocratic disposition with charter school entities because professional autonomy and freedom are removed.
This proposed change means controlling charter schools to the point that the systems of innovative and alternative educational practices that have served as beacons of hope for parents who seek a different learning path for their child become extinguished. From a personal perspective, I believe that Regulation 6–349 forces charter school leaders to adhere to a one-size-fits-all approach to instructional planning and delivery and school management as well as student learning that continues to permeate traditional public schools everywhere. Therefore, charter and traditional public schools would merge as duplicate entities. I think this will cause charter schools to disappear.
Sadly, the notion of differentiation which should be applied to every component of twenty-first-century educational delivery systems becomes invisible with this proposal. Therefore, there would be no difference between charter and traditional public schools. And school choice would be eliminated.
As a parent, I am passionate about sustaining my right to choose the educational program that is in the best interest of my daughter and for me. There are reasons why this is so.
As an experienced educator who worked in various capacities in urban, rural, and suburban traditional public schools, I witnessed how many school leaders and policymakers in these places devalued charter schools. Several parents and community leaders were among these individuals, too. The negative opinions they maintained were based on funding issues. Instead of these antagonists considering charter schools as partners who could positively impact the lives of students and their families, they viewed them as competitors who stole from them. Unfortunately, students, their differentiated needs and abilities, and so much more have been reduced to a commodity. As a mother, I will be the first individual to declare that “my child is not a commodity.”
My daughter deserves the best educational experience possible. Our story led us to this school. As a third-year student, this school represents the best option and the right fit for her.
The first seven years of my daughter’s education were spent at a highly competitive private school. From kindergarten on, every evening of the week was spent engaged in homework. As she moved through each grade level, the amount of time spent on projects, copying verbatim material from textbooks, independent practice, and homework (a lot was meaningless work that had no academic merit), her childhood was stolen. It was and is unnatural for a child to stay up until midnight completing so much school-related work night after night.
At the same time, the love that my daughter had for gymnastics intensified. She became involved in her sport at the age of two and has consistently participated.
I realized that gymnastics was a critical part of her development at the same time that realized that the rigid private school that she attended was not the right for her. As her mother, I decided to place her in an educational program that allowed her to grow academically but also gave her the flexibility to grow as a gymnast and young person. I no longer wanted her to be enslaved to school work outside of school.
We were blessed when we found and enrolled in PA Distance Learning Charter School.
This Is Us
Academics is what is most important in my daughter’s life. She is the type of student who has to work very hard. That was the type of student I was, too. Because I understand her learning style, I can encourage her to continue developing a strong work ethic because I am very involved in her life as a learner.
The educators at her school have made it easy for me to partner with them to support my daughter as I am a participative member of her educational team. As a family engagement influencer, everything that I advocate for with other parents and other educators globally manifests with me and my positive interactions with her educators.
Aside from the academic rigor that my daughter is exposed to and the quality education she is receiving at her school, there have been several positive as well as individualized benefits that she has reaped as a student.
We can maintain some flexibility in her schedule as the concern about blatant peer competition is nonexistent. Her live lessons facilitate this. She has been able to participate in a service-learning activity that I believed was important, work with her trainer, take dance lessons, participate in her youth group at church, and simply take an as-needed break as shown below.|
My daughter is an aspiring collegiate gymnast and trains five to six days a week. We travel during her competitive season and she often participates in various high-performance camps and training opportunities. This has included training with Olympic Coach Liang Chow in Iowa several times and with a university coach a few times. As I keep the lines of communication open with the school, she can participate in her studies as we travel or are in hotels and she can participate in recorded lessons. My daughter even did so when she competed in the Bahamas.
We can make sure that there is a little time to periodically have fun with friends or engage in fun activities. This ensures that she has well-rounded life experiences.
Becoming aware of our story helps reinforce the importance that PA Distance Learning Charter School plays in our life as a family.
My Final Word
Whether in-person or cyber like my daughter attends, charter schools in the state of Pennsylvania are critically important to students and their parents. It is difficult to quantify the impact that this type of education has on them because their experiences, strengths, needs, and goals are so differentiated.
I believe that Regulation 6–349 will eliminate the right of a parent to be able to choose an educational option that is the right fit for their child. More families who believe that a charter school represents the most comfortable fit for them would be excluded from them. This would be true because this proposal seeks to funnel a broader range of students who meet the definition of diverse into these schools. Proponents of this regulation mistakenly refer to this as a random sample of diverse students. I correct this error by stating that it would be a convenient sample of diverse students. In the quest for increased student diversity in charter programs, strategies to manipulate or hand-pick students for these schools would be conveniently used to satisfy the desire to make the schools more diverse. I believe diverse students would be recruited to charter schools at the expense of the students and parents who desire this option for their children.
Charter schools must continue to function as the Pennsylvania General Assembly intended for them too. According to what is embedded in Charter School Law, it is my opinion that these schools must continue to operate independently so they do not mirror traditional public schools. And the right of parents to select a charter school for their child to attend must remain unchanged.