For some time now, York school district in Pennsylvania has been marred by academic and financial difficulties. According to National Public Radio, York students perform the worst on tests out of the state’s 500 school districts. Eighty-four percent of York students live in “poor households,” and the economy has not grown with the national standard. This prompted the state to intervene in 2012, proposing that a for-profit company, Charters USA, control the school district. With a decision that will be announced sometime in the upcoming weeks, this potential corporate inclusion demonstrates Pennsylvania’s inability to fix its academic turmoil.
Though Charters USA, a company with ties to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, manages 70 schools in seven states, it is not an organization based on nurturing. Rather, the basis of Charters USA is profit. A McKinsey Report states that privatized education generates $1.1 trillion in revenue. So even if the company’s website boasts of caring about students on an individual level and experienced educators, when the focus is on earning money, education loses its pure purpose to help students grow. Education based in business also means the educators are not responsible to the public; all decisions are made by the corporation detached from the people they are supposed to be serving.
Additionally, studies have found that education has not necessarily improved with the proliferation of charter schools. A CREDO study by Stanford University compared statistics of charter schools to that of public schools for four years, and found academic performance to be around the same. In York district specifically, several independent charter schools can be found. According to NPR, two are the highest achieving in the suburban area, while one had to be shut down due to even lower test scores. Further specific incidences of charter schools failing to revive education should alarm Pennsylvanian government officials. Schools in Ohio experienced lower performance in all school subjects, while Texas charters reported fewer graduating students in their 2012 graduating class. Quite apparently, privatization of education is not an absolute solution to the education problem.
At the root of that education problem lies funding cuts for public schools. State funding, which comes from taxes has received a 15 percent cut since Gov. Tom Corbett took office, according to the Pennsylvania State Education Association. This is due to corporations neglecting to pay their taxes, causing a decrease in fund circulation. Tax dollars are funneled elsewhere, ignoring the teachers with low salaries and schools with dilapidated technology and resources. Allowing Charters USA to take over York is publicly shaming the school district, when in actuality, they are not at fault. On the contrary, the state has set up York for failure, as it is not able to meet its demands with the amount of money given.
The shame is also felt by the very people who care deeply about the school district, and are aware of its depleted financial resources. Ashlee DeSantis, a high school senior, told NPR, “We care about our school, we love our school and we love public school. We don’t want receivership [placement of custodial responsibility in others] to happen here.” Corporate takeover strikes down an already solid community of passionate people. It’s an environment that they cannot engineer.
There are many ways that the public school system can be improved, and it starts with abandoning the development of charter schools. These business endeavors have exhibited trivial success and neglected to solve the problem from its genesis, lack of funding. Instead, Charters USA will only messily patch York’s problems and demean its community.
As the Commonwealth State, Pennsylvania disappoints its common man.