The early charter schools in Pennsylvania were largely the product of passionate parents or community groups, who sometimes planned their dream schools around the kitchen table.
But the picture has changed dramatically since the charter school law was passed in Pennsylvania in 1997, with an expansion of education management organizations that bring big money and clout into the picture.
While some of the early charter planners succeeded — such as the Manchester Youth Development Center on the North Side, which then offered an after-school tutoring program and started the Manchester Academic Charter School — many schools never materialized, with some planners saying it was harder than expected to come up with the necessary capital and expertise.
That was before so many businesses aimed at providing curriculum, management and facilities entered the scene, including organizations that don’t just assist but help initiate support for a charter school.
Charter schools are public schools that have their own boards and are chartered by a local school district in the case of a bricks-and-mortar charter or by the state for a cyber charter. School districts pay a fee set by the state for their residents to attend.
Increasingly, locally elected school officials are finding their districts competing against charter schools allied with big organizations with big money and their own ideas for students.
“It’s had a large impact on the growth of charter school reform,” said Gary Miron, an education professor at Western Michigan University who studies charter schools.
Click here to read the full article by Eleanor Chute published in the Pittsburgh Post- Gazette (December 30, 2012).