Dear Madam/Mr. President,
Education is the key to a whole world of knowledge, however, there are many who are being undercut by a system for which every politician seems to have an unlimited amount of praise. Charter schools are a form of education in which public taxpayer money is handed over to private corporations with the assumption that they will provide a better education, especially in at-risk neighborhoods. However, for many charters this isn’t the case. When parents have to research whether or not the head of their charter school has been charged for closing a school early or for wire fraud/embezzlement, there is a problem of basic trust for charter schools. I urge you to reform charter schools to require more standards, better screening, and much more transparency.
In 2014 alone, Pennsylvania had eight charter school officials plead guilty to wire fraud and embezzlement charges. This is the money that is set aside for these schools to educate the students, not to be a personal slush fund for “expensive restaurant meals, a posh staff retreat at Nemacolin Woodlands resort, and payments for mobile phones belonging to the spouses of board members.” Pennsylvania is not alone in these issues, as a Center for Popular Democracy and Integrity in Education report shows that in 2014, more than $100 million of taxpayer money had been wasted in charter schools found to have been involved in fraudulent activities. I am in an unusual situation in which I can personally relate to these activities, having been a student employee of one of these charter schools myself. The head of the school I was working for would very often go for expensive meals and disappear for lengthy amounts of time and would routinely find ways to cut the student budget to the absolute minimum while maintaining a six-figure salary. Some disagree and believe that if the school is operating as it should, then it shouldn't matter what the head was being paid, just so long that the students were not impacted. However, the teachers at the school were constantly cycling in and out of jobs due to the poor pay that the school offered to keep up with the head's salary.
Another pressing issue on the subject of charter schools is their lacking performance. With all the money that charters receive from taxpayers, the student performance in these schools tends to be lower than public schools in their areas, online charters being the worst culprits. According to HBO’s Last Week Tonight, John Oliver quotes the Washington Post that, “’students in online charters lost an average of about 72 days of learning in reading and 180 days of learning in math during the course of a 180-day school year.’ And we all know that 180 minus 180 is, as these kids might tell you, three.” Losing an entire year of math is absolutely unacceptable, especially in the lower grades, as it leads to a weak foundation that will make later math courses far more difficult. These online charters educate around 180,000 children grades K-12, and these performance reports are scathing. Opponents to this critique state that these online charters allow for students to get a better education at their own pace. However, looking at the performance reports, they are not only recieiving a subpar education but barely recieving one at all.
In conclusion, there are many facets of charter schools that truly need reform and I hope that you are the president who makes these reforms. Parent distrust in their educational choices is unacceptable in a country like the United States and change is needed before it reaches a tipping point. I urge you to reform charter schools to require more standards, better screening, and much more transparency.
“Charter Schools under Attack.” The Washington Post, 2016, Opposing Viewpoints in Context, ic.galegroup.com/ic/ovic/newsdetailspage/documenttoolsportletwindow?displaygroupname=news&p=ovic&catid=&action=2&documentid=gale|a461748813&zid=f0bde43e9268ac04c03e37530aa63a2b#.wbty53q925w.gmail&source=bookmark&u=tel_k_farrhs&jsid=87c524115e44b763439decc4a8cf944d.
“Last Week Tonight: Charter Schools.” Last Week Tonight, HBO, 21 Aug. 2016.
Strauss, Valerie. “A Dozen Problems with Charter Schools.” Washington Post, The Washington Post, 20 May 2014, www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2014/05/20/a-dozen-problems-with-charter-schools/.