OPINION: Personal Story Reveals Imporant Need for School Choice

From The Philadelphia Inquirer:

When charter schools were proposed for Pennsylvania in 1997, the same argument was made against them that’s now being used against vouchers:

Competition would destroy the public school system.

Thirteen years later, we’ve proved them wrong.

Now, one of every five public school students in Philadelphia attends a charter school – the total number is 40,000. That competition is driving changes for the better.

In the next school year, Philadelphia School Superintendent Arlene Ackerman is implementing a new plan (called “Renaissance Schools”) to radically restructure 18 chronically failing schools. Eight of the 18 would be turned into charter schools.

The problem is that charter schools in Philadelphia have waiting lists of nearly 30,000.

Which means that thousands of students who want to choose another option will be left in the 91 district schools that qualify as “persistently low-achieving.”

What happens to the children who are not part of the Renaissance plan and are in one of 91 failing schools?

Meet Philadelphia BAEO member Michell Williams.

Ms. Williams is a single parent, a grandmother raising four children. She has a seven-year-old grandchild, Breonna, in the second grade at Pastorius Elementary School in Germantown.

Breonna was choked several times by a boy in her class. Two months ago, a student chased Breonna with scissors – when a teacher was present – and cut some of her hair off.

Recently, she came home saying she hurt because another child had elbowed her in the chest.

Ms. Williams filed a complaint with the school about the scissors incident and is still waiting for the results of the school’s investigation. She has submitted an “extenuating circumstances” transfer application for Breonna.

Meanwhile, test scores at Pastorious are the pits. Last year, the 2009 PSSA results for the seventh grade showed that only 26 percent of the students scored proficient or better in math.

In reading for the seventh grade, only 29 percent of the students scored proficient or better on the PSSA.