Community members rallied before a meeting about charter schools last night. (Photo by Jeff Lautenberger)
Last night, two charter operators interested in running district schools appeared before York City’s Community Education Council meeting, and community members opposed to the idea rallied beforehand.
You can read the story I filed last night here. But when meetings run for hours (the rally started at 5:30 p.m., and I left the Hannah Penn K-8 School auditorium close to 10:30 p.m.), there are always a lot of points that don’t make it in print. So here are some more comments heard at the rally and meeting.
And if you haven’t been following, there’s still time. Mosaica Education will appear at a public meeting tonight at 6:30 p.m. at Hannah Penn.
Some audience members seemed to indicate they just don’t feel charter operators are needed. Representatives from the charter operators emphasized that they are in York because there was a request.
There’s good stuff happening in York, but it could be better, said Jon Hage, CEO of Charter Schools USA. Hage has said multiple times that the organization had 200 requests to open charter schools last year and opened 12.
“You guys are ripe for systemic change,” he said. “You’re at that place.”
In response to criticism of charter schools in general, Michael Connelly, CEO of Mosaica Education, said that there are certainly charter schools that get shut down.
“At least what it demonstrates is charter schools are accountable,” he said.
Some audience members raised concern about losing teachers students know and love if buildings are converted to charters.
Connelly said “great teachers will have the opportunity to be great teachers in the charter school.”
But Clovis Gallon, a York City teacher and parent, said he didn’t think charter schools would be able offer a competitive salary and families like his would have a hard time making thousands of dollars less.
Parent Natisha Preston, who has three kids at Jackson K-8 School, said she agreed with some who felt the operators presented a “Disney version” of their schools. But she also said York City schools are open to change and have already made some good changes.
“We aren’t against change when it works,” she said.
State Rep. Kevin Schreiber attended the rally and said he was “incredibly hesitant” about the idea of charters. He said it was important to ask as many questions as possible.
Charters aren’t a panacea, he said, but the status quo needs to change as well. He traced the city district’s problems to decisions under Gov. Tom Corbett, such as the elimination of charter school reimbursement.
Subjecting York City students to a different type of education than other students would be “fundamentally wrong,” he told the crowd at the rally.
Margie Orr, York City School Board president, watched the rally before the meeting. She carried a “stop corporate takeover” sign, but said someone just put it in her hand. She said it was good to see the community out.
“This is what I told them we needed to see,” she said. “It’s a good thing. They want to protect their district.”