Obama, Wolf at Odds Over Charter Schools

Member Group : Commonwealth Foundation

Obama, Wolf at Odds over Charter Schools
As Obama Recognizes National Charter Schools Week, Wolf Wants to Slash Charter Funding

May 4, 2016, HARRISBURG, Pa.—President Obama last week proclaimed May 1-7 "National Charter Schools Week," praising charters for their "innovation" and calling on "[s]tates and communities to support high-quality public schools, including charter schools." Yet, even as thousands of Pennsylvania students sit on charter waitlists, Gov. Wolf has taken every opportunity to undercut the state’s charters.

During the budget impasse, the Wolf administration stopped sending money to charters. In his 2016-17 budget proposal, Wolf arbitrarily called for $50 million in cuts for cyber charter schools.

Additionally, in March 2015, Wolf removed Bill Green as chairman of Philadelphia’s School Reform Commission (SRC) after the SRC approved a mere five of 39 new charter school applications. Wolf’s act prompted a recent lawsuit from Green seeking to regain his position as chair. The Philadelphia Inquirer editorial board agreed Green has a strong case.

"For thousands of students in Pennsylvania and across the country, charter schools are the key to educational opportunity," commented James Paul, senior policy analyst for the Commonwealth Foundation. "Given charters’ well-documented success, it’s little wonder demand far exceeds supply. Unfortunately, while Gov. Wolf campaigned on ‘schools that teach,’ he’s attacking the very schools that do just that."

Urban brick-and-mortar charter school students receive 40 additional learning days per year in math and 28 in reading, compared with traditional public school students, according to a study by Stanford University. Pennsylvania has more than 120,000 charter students, with thousands more on waiting lists.

A nationwide survey released last month showed widespread support for charters, with more than 70% of parents favoring the expansion of charter schools. Additionally, support for public school choice in general was high, particularly among Hispanics (84%), blacks (82%), and low-income respondents (86%).

"At every turn, Governor Wolf has tried to block the educational opportunities Pennsylvania’s public charter schools provide," Paul continued. "Instead of cutting the educational lifelines that help rescue children—and particularly those in underserved communities—from failing schools, Wolf should heed President Obama’s call to support these schools that give students the knowledge, training, and resources to succeed in life."

James Paul and other Commonwealth Foundation experts are available for comment. Please contact Gina Diorio at 862-703-6670 or [email protected] to schedule an interview.

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