In York PA education will be all about profit

In York PA education will be all about profit thanks to the Corbett administration who asked a judge to grant receivership of the district to a local businessman who intends to “sell” the district to a for-profit charter school corporation. Believe it or not, this all happened December 1st, and a PA judge granted the request on the 26th which is when the news broke, leaving parents caught completely off-guard. Unfortunately with all that has been going on in our communities and in the world some stories, even the important ones, fly completely under the radar. The district’s Chief Recovery Officer, David Meckley, was appointed to his post by now outgoing governor Tom Corbett in 2012 to fix fiscal issues within the district. 2 years later, the best suggestion he could come up with was to sell the district and the futures of York’s children out to a for-profit venture. This move now gives Mr. Meckley sole authority to make York, PA the first city in the nation to turn it’s entire school district over to a for-profit education entity called Charter Schools USA.

You can read the article on PennLive.com by clicking here.

Mr. Meckley is not an educator, does not operate under the counsel of educators, and is able to act unilaterally without the support of the elected school board, administrators, or parents of the children being served by the district.

My issue with this is two-fold. First, as a father of two I am bothered by the idea that my children’s education can be decided by a person I did not elect to hold that decision in his or her hands. Recognizing that the York school district has had serious budget problems for sometime, we have to admit that many school districts have had a similar issue; and the use of political force to push an agenda here smacks of cronyism. York’s parents simply aren’t being given a choice – or even a say in what happens to their children’s educations…educations that they are paying for out of their own pockets.

My second issue is that there appeared to be no public review process, bidding process, or even due-diligence on Charter Schools USA’s planned implementation. If we are serious about making our educational infrastructure more like a business, then that should include the same due-diligence practices that are subscribed to in businesses all over the country. There are other organizations out there, perhaps some that would do a better job, but it would appear they will never even have a chance to bid or share their plans with the parents and community members that will be paying for the operation.

For-profit education started out as an alternative that has quickly become an agenda. Depending on where you live, you can’t help but notice the vast number of advertisements suggesting “school choice”, with testimonials from parents who describe their children’s bleak futures until they got their child into a charter or cyber school. The ads feel almost like those commercials for magic detergents that get out all kinds of stains while making your clothes brighter. The issue is that charter schools have their own rules. Some are simply a publicly-funded way to turn tax dollars for education into profits for corporations. Many are political tools to bust teacher’s unions, who some want to blame for our education mess. Others are trying to be real game changers, operate in a non-profit fashion, and are revolutionizing education. Unfortunately, those aren’t the ones benefiting from what has become a multi-million dollar industry complete with its own lobby and marketing engine.

It is unfortunate that the children of York PA are becoming subject to the first of what I believe may become many politically-motivated dogfights in state houses all across the country. Our education system can be fixed…but selling out our kids for profit, placing blame, and shifting accountability from where it belongs to for-profit endeavors simply feels irresponsible. We owe the next generation, our innovation generation, a chance to thrive and learn. The lesson we teach them should not be the one children are now learning in York – if a situation is tough shift the responsibility to someone else, and make a little money on the side doing it if you can.

Stakeholders, what is your opinion on what is happening in York? Are you worried about similar political maneuvering or do you have a positive experience with for-profit charter schools to share?

Endre Walls
Endre Walls
endre.walls@franklinfound.org

<p>The Franklin Foundation for Innovation’s CEO and Chairman first founded the non-profit back in 2008 with the idea of improving America’s education system to protect the future of American Innovation. An award-winning technology executive and father of 2, he believes anything is possible, and is willing to do whatever it takes to ensure unlimited possibilities for America’s children no matter where they live.</p>

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