During his tenure, Pennsylvania Governor Wolf has been trying to defund charter schools across the Commonwealth and make it harder for schools like PA Distance to operate. Time and time again, the state legislature has defended charter schools against these numerous attempts.
However, Governor Wolf is now attempting to bypass the PA House and Senate and create a separate regulation within the PA Department of Education to increase requirements on charter schools and make it harder for them to receive funding. All in all, he is trying to shut charter schools down and remove the choice that families now have for their children's education.
PA Distance parent, Teresa Allshouse, shares her thoughts on school choice and the benefits to her three children.
My name is Teresa Allshouse, two of my children attend Pennsylvania Distance Learning Charter School, my other child attends a private school.
What does school choice mean to my family? It means rigorous academics/curriculum, opportunities, and confidence. A choice that allows my children to reach their full potential in an appropriate setting.
Public schools are designed to function as a one size fits all educational system. Unfortunately, as with our three children, they all have different educational needs.
School choice has enabled our oldest child to attend an all-boys boarding school, The Kiski School. There, he is engaged in a rigorous curriculum that challenges his critical-thinking skills and experiences while introducing an accelerated pace of learning. He is in advanced and honors classes with like-minded students that will challenge him. His educational needs could not be met in the public school system, even with a Gifted IEP. Public school funding does not follow him, however, the school district can still receive 100 percent of his state funding. How is that fair?
My middle child was bullied. School choice has enabled him to choose a safe learning environment away from his bullies. He feels safe and was able to heal and regain his confidence. He has made friends from across Pennsylvania with the same interests as himself. He doesn’t have to worry about his reports to the office being disregarded as his bullies were just “joking." He had the opportunity to take classes in 8th grade for high school credit. His teachers have a flexible schedule where tutoring is easily obtained through technology. Most importantly, he has established a teacher-student relationship that fosters mutual respect and opportunities that do not exist in his home district.
School choice has enabled our children’s stability when there is none within our public school district. Within the last eight years, there have been countless PDE school closing meetings regarding consolidation as well as arguing amongst board members as to which side of the district should educate the student population. On July 1, 2021, the consolidation became a reality. Students at his old school have to wake up an hour and a half earlier, possibly transfer to several buses just to get to school. Class sizes have increased, classroom and cafeteria space have become overcrowded, as covid mask mandates are enforced and quarantines and covid positive cases have now become the norm.
Holding classes over zoom is NOT a cyber education that my children experienced! During the pandemic, my children continued to have academic growth while brick and mortar school student academic growth declined to the point the department of education had to allow school districts across the state to offer credit recovery and in some instances, the option of repeating a grade level.
As a taxpayer, I have no choice in paying my school taxes. I have no say, except for who I vote to represent my district, as to what educational stability my children receive. School choice, with public funding that follows the student, allows for the students to find what works for them.
My third child has an IEP. She needed a change. An environment that would allow her to rebuild her confidence and take the pressure off of her to keep pace with “normal” kids. School choice enabled her to change her environment. She has a flexible class schedule and resources available to her through the special education department. We have seen the educational growth that comes with stability. My daughter participated in the Odyssey Fellowship where she worked side by side with mentors that have explored electrical engineering and coding. My daughter created a lime piano and coded it to sound different notes. It was fascinating to watch how she seamlessly coded and worked with a circuit playground to produce this musical masterpiece. This program is not available in her home district.
I am a true believer that children can flourish in the appropriate educational environment that focuses on the child's individual educational needs and interests. Under Governor Wolf’s new attack on public cyber charter schools, parent choice would be taken away. The academic growth my children have experienced would be crippling to their continued success. My son would be forced back into an environment that is not healthy for his mental health. The environment my daughter changed from, would still be there, if not worse. In a society that is still in the mindset of one size fits all education, school choice has an enormous impact on the success of the child that doesn't fit in that box. If the past two years have taught us anything, parents need to be making the decisions for their children, whether they wear a mask in the classroom, become vaccinated, or where their child receives their education.
Governor Wolf wants more transparency from cyber charter schools but refuses to enforce transparency with local districts. I recently watched my local district's monthly school board meeting over a live stream. During the public comments, a parent asked the board-specific questions about masks, and the financial impact the consolidation had upon the transportation budget. The response she received was not one of transparency of financial records, but a simple statement of we’re not here to answer your questions. Then why does Governor Wolf demand more transparency, reduce funding and parent choice from the cyber charter schools and not demand the same transparency from brick and mortar school districts? It’s not Governor Wolf's child that’s being educated, but he has the final say over where that child receives their education and not the parents?
We need your help to fight back! Tell the Pennsylvania Department of Education you oppose this regulation and Gov. Wolf’s attacks on charter families. It takes just a few moments to fill out this form below and make your voice heard!
Do you want to share your story about how school choice benefits you and your family? Contact Kelsey Holsinger at email@example.com for help making your voice heard.