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Will Wood: Charter school’s application filled with red flags

The Very Loud People are at it again. Still unable to gain traction for their argument that public schools are factories operated by pedophiles intent on churning out transgender Marxists, they have decided to launch their own charter school.

To be perfectly clear, properly managed charter schools are essential. They can foster innovations, provide flexible learning environments, and meet needs that are not being met in a district’s traditional schools.

But a danger with charters is that uniform educational standards can fall victim to religious or cultural beliefs of charter operators. Unfortunately Pennsylvania does not have enforceable rules in place to ensure charters are meeting standards, which makes it imperative that local schools scrutinize applications for new charters in their districts.

Take, for example, the Valley Forge Classical Academy application pending in the West Chester Area School District.

Let’s take a look at the academy’s mission statement to see what kind of school it is going to be: Through their “classical” education, students will understand the “foundational tenants of our Western heritage.” State law says that charter schools must be for all students, not just students with a Western heritage. It is helpful that VFCA has described their intention to exclude people — or at least make them feel excluded — right in the mission statement, but the exclusion does not stop there.

The academy intends to use the Hillsdale College K-12 curriculum. The only school in Pennsylvania that uses this curriculum was founded by a Baptist church on the belief that knowledge must be defined according to scripture and that public education’s decline was caused by removing religion from public schools. VFCA’s fundraising page offers the options to donate, share, or pray and the school’s founder has used a biblical reference specifically about religious exclusion to mobilize her supporters.

Their social media presence includes promoting the academy on an anti-LGBTQ+ social media page as well as reposting anti-LGBTQ+ content, not only raising questions about where VFCA’s leadership spends their time on the internet, but also about how this school could ever meet the standard of “all students.”

But not all the problems involve exclusion. The logistical plan has gaping flaws. It calls for 3 classes per grade, with 13 grades (K-12) by the academy’s fourth year. Easy math: 3 x 13 = 39 classes. But the proposed floorplan for their school building has only 34 classrooms with no apparent plan for expansion.

VFCA’s 2024 budget indicates an income of $20,000 per pupil, although the state actually sets the tuition rate in WCASD at $14,030 per student. VFCA plans on 675 students, again, simple math: 675 x $14,030 = $9,470,250. The VFCA budget is $10,725,000, which matches neither the state rate nor VFCA’s made up $20,000 figure. The $1,254,750 discrepancy is not explained.

There are dozens of examples of misspellings, faulty grammar, made-up words, and missing punctuation throughout the application. There’s even one place where it says, “school name here.”

This is the final draft of an application to run a school. If this is the best the school’s leaders can muster, I shudder to think how low the standards will be for student work.

Instead of addressing the myriad fundamental issues with the application, the school’s CEO has been offering straw-man counterarguments to questions no one is raising, saying that those who oppose the application are anti-charter, or anti-school-choice, and referring to them — the voting and taxpaying residents of the community VFCA wants to serve — as “minions.”

VFCA’s founder indicates that the academy has more pre-enrolled students from outside the West Chester district than inside it. This means that VFCA is not serving a need in West Chester, which should be grounds for automatically rejecting the application. It also means that other school districts across Chester County and the surrounding areas would have their tax dollars go to VFCA without having had a voice in the approval process. And the school’s CEO has said that if VFCA succeeds, she plans to open more schools across the region.

If you care about things like education or taxes, and especially if you are a strong advocate for charter schools, you have to make the time to make your voice heard at the public hearing for VFCA on June 14, or email the WCASD board and let them know you oppose the charter.

If an application with so many red flags is approved, it would irrevocably undermine the credibility of the charter school program in Pennsylvania.

Will Wood is a small business owner, veteran, and half-decent runner. He lives, works, and writes in West Chester.


Source: Berkshire mont

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