Schlossberg issues statement on charter school reform

ALLENTOWN, Aug. 13 – State Rep. Mike Schlossberg, D- Lehigh, issued the following statement regarding Gov. Tom Wolf’s announcement today of his charter school reform strategy:

"Governor Wolf's strong executive action will ensure that, for the first time, in a long time, the Allentown School District has a chance at long-term financial sustainability.

“Payments to charter schools cost taxpayers in the Allentown School District $3 million in 1998-1999. That cost is now north of $62 million: a 20-fold increase in 20 years. How 1 out of every 6 dollars paid for by Allentown School District taxpayers is spent is completely out of the hands of the people elected as stewards of our resources. 

“Based upon estimates from the administration, this stands to save the taxpayers of the Allentown School District $10 million. While I have very proudly worked with Representative Peter Schweyer to secure additional funding for the Allentown School District, this action goes a step further by altering the circumstances which require that additional funding. ASD students should not have their futures determined by the political skill of those who represent them in the legislature. Rather than find emergency funding, I would rather reform the system which required emergency funding in the first place. Governor Wolf’s actions today will allow us to do just that.  

“I cannot understate the importance of these moves. As a result of what the governor has done here, we have a better shot at giving our students – all our students – the world-class education they deserve.

“For years, the Allentown School District has been told to do more with less. When purse strings were tightened during the Great Recession, Allentown was one of the most devastated financial districts in the state. Meanwhile, charter schools have grown exponentially with education outcomes that leave little to be desired and at the expense of the children left behind. It is time charter schools live by the same rules financially distressed school districts are forced to live by. 

“Parents who make the decision to send their kids to charter schools are doing so because they think it is what is best for their children. That is good because parents want what is best for their children and children deserve the best. Parents deserve to know that their child will get a high-quality education and be ready to live in the 21st century. They deserve to know the truth of education outcomes and how charter schools perform compared to public schools.

“Likewise, taxpayers deserve transparency in how tax dollars are spent. They deserve to know the organizations entrusted with those tax dollars meet the highest standards of ethics.

“These decisions will give all students a chance at a world-class education, relieve the burden on taxpayers and protect the hardworking teachers and administrators of the Allentown School District. These structural changes, combined with revenue from Allentown’s redevelopment and new fiscal discipline and oversight by the Allentown School District, will change the face of Allentown for the better.

“I wish these actions were not necessary, but here we are. The necessary reforms to bring improvements to charter schools and relief for taxpayers have not even come to a vote, and they should. My hope, in the long run, is that these actions will encourage the legislature to work with all parties involved and find a sustainable, long-term solution,” Schlossberg said.