Anyone Have $12 million to spare?

Just another rant from a lover of public education who is looking for answers—and money, too.

I just came home from another meeting where the main topic of conversation was Gov. Corbett's budget.  

Just add an intense soundtrack and you have all the makings of a horror film.  I don't claim to understand everything about a state or school district budget, but I do understand how charter and cyber schools are causing districts like my beloved to hemorrhage money.

My son is in sixth grade. Since his kindergarten year, 2005-06, WHSD has shelled out over $47 million.  

WHSD has been reimbursed $7.5 million of that. This current school year is costing us $12 million with $0 reimbursement. If a little vomit just inched its way up your throat, I know how you feel.

Some people will say that if WHSD was doing its job, people wouldn't leave.  I know people who have left and they had no complaints about our teachers or curriculum.

Some people will say that the charter schools are out-performing the public schools. How many pages of research do you want to show that is completely false?

And don't get me started on a cyber school that is one of the top 10 advertisers on KDKA Radio, which is one of the most expensive to air on.

I will always believe in public education.  My children are getting an excellent education.  My children are safe.  My children are happy.  Sadly, I feel nothing but contempt for the charter and cyber schools that are taking money away from my district and directly away from programs for my children.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Gerard Babitts March 01, 2012 at 09:04 PM
I don't understand why not getting state monies gets blamed on charter schools. Do you also blame those who send their children to private or parochial schools or families who decide to move out of the district? State funding is based on student enrollment numbers. If a student living in the district isn't enrolled in a Woodland Hills public school, why should the school get that state funding? This is the case whether the student goes to a charter school, private school, parochial school, or home school or moves out of the district. I don't disagree that the state under funds public education but the more relevant question to ask is why are more and more parents choosing to send their children to non-Woodland Hills public schools and/or moving out of the district. People vote with their feet. Scapegoating and/or closing charter options won't stop this exodus. Better public schools will.
Chris Longwill March 02, 2012 at 01:03 AM
In response to Gerard: I also don't know much about state education funding, but, correct me if I'm wrong, from whatever money a school district gets, they must pay a charter school a certain amount per district student attending that charter school. Somewhat analogous to that commercial on TV where the person talking on the phone is helping the thief rob them, don't you think? Your comment about better schools stopping the exodus......Right.......and if all the kids who go to private, parochial, or charter schools would be attending our public schools, tell me that public schools wouldn't all be better. Parents are sending the children to non public schools because politicians have given them that option. That, and their idea that things are better someplace else. Bring those kids (and their parents who want to be involved in their schools) back into the public education fold, and I'm willing to bet that, yes, you will get your better public schools.
Tara Reis March 02, 2012 at 03:40 AM
I appreciate all comments! Chris, your advocacy for our District is beyond commendable. You definitely get it. When millions leave our coffers and there is NO accountability for how those dollars are spent, it's not just wrong. One Administrator who attended the same meeting called it criminal. Keep the faith!
Clover Kinkopf March 02, 2012 at 09:13 AM
I must comment on this topic even though I am green to the subject. I myself am an alumni of "Woody High" and I bleed blue! But I will tell you as a mother of two who have not yet entered into the school system yet I too question public or private. As a parent you want the best for your children you want them to be safe and you want the school programming to speak for itself. As I speak with parents in the community I hear many mixed reviews. Mostly parents from troubled children telling me private is preferred and the main stream saying public is better. It bothers me that parents are losing faith in WHSD, I had an excellent education. I believe as a district we need to re invest in what we want the families, parents, and children to believe and see what this district stands for. We are football but what about everything else, what can we do differently that would tell people like me a young mother to continue the legacy.
Amy Ashley-Matta March 02, 2012 at 01:06 PM
I cringe whenever I think of our teachers and staff trying to get their jobs done with less and less resources to do it with. The numbers Ms. Reis posted make me sick to my stomach. I have a third grader at WHSD and she's getting a great education and having a fantastic experience. WHSD offers lots of events for the entire community. Everything from fantastic theater to public swim nights. For young parents like Clover, I would suggest checking an event out. When my daughter was 4 we attended a story-telling program at Edgewood Elementary. I was wowed by the people and the welcoming atmosphere. My husband and I looked at private schools in the area too, but WHSD was the best fit for our family.
Tara Reis March 02, 2012 at 01:17 PM
Thank you Amy! While the numbers I quoted are sickening, your comments made me choke up in a great way! Like Chris Longwill wrote, if we had more parents like you, our District would be referred to as award-winning, not struggling. Please check out the website calendar on the right hand side of www.whsd.net and see if one of our Community Relations Committee meetings fits into your schedule. I am sure you would be a huge asset to the committee and would have great ideas on how we can reach out to parents like Clover and others. The next one is on Friday, March 23rd at 10:00am at the Administration Building. Again, THANK YOU! You made my day!
LENORE WOSSIDLO March 02, 2012 at 06:06 PM
As a WHSD parent AND taxpayer, who sends their son to a charter school, I would like to offer my comments. My son attended Edgewood Primary for K-2. HE told me that HE did NOT want to go to the next feeder school, even before I told him I was thinking about a different school for him. He liked EP very much; he LOVES his charter school. There are pros and cons, yes, but please do not lump all charter schools into one group, that they ALL don't perform well, etc. This charter school received an award from the State for making AYP every year since it has opened. This charter school allows creativity and input from the students and parents AND uses our ideas. This charter school promotes parental involvement based on parent schedules. At EP, I could volunteer only certain times/hours/days; but it was not exactly what was needed so it was not accepted. My son has learned so much more and has had so many more educational, creative experiences at this charter school than I believe he would have learned at WH. At one point, I had faith in WH. It will take a long time for many families to get that faith back. As a taxpayer and lifelong resident of Swissvale, I would like to see that happen. Until then, I want the best situation, education, and learning opportunities for my son. I am proud to say that he attends the ECS@Frick Park Charter School.
Sue T March 02, 2012 at 11:01 PM
I do not have children, but I do pay school taxes so feel I should have a voice here. I believe in choice. ALL forms of choice, and that includes the right to pick the school where your child is educated. Several of the children in my neighborhood attend charter schools, I'm impressed at the different focus on education these schools have offered them. I think charter schools are an amazing educational opportunity. Reading this article, the focus is anger over money. Perhaps the focus should by how to improve the WH school district so that it can compete with the quality of education offered by the charter schools. Quality does not necessarily equate to dollars. My understanding is that the charter schools on the average operate at a cost of approximately 30% less per student then public schools. If the quality of WH school district equals that of the local charter schools, then work to improve the reputation of the school district in a positive manner.
Kathi McShane March 03, 2012 at 02:27 AM
I am not sure how the payments to charter schools work either. Is the school district paying out more than the cost it would get if the child went to WHSD? If not, then I don't fully get the anger towards charters. If so, then I would agree that something may need to change. I have 2 kids who graduated from WHHS and 1 child currently in a charter. I wasn't unhappy with the elementary school (although I wasn't thrilled with the school to home communication) but thought the charter school was a better fit for this particular child. My decision was to do what was best for my child, not to cause harm to her home district. I think the best school environment happens when the families there actually want/choose to be there and when the school recognizes that families have a choice and works hard to provide an environment that is welcoming. I think there are wonderful things about WHSD but I also believe that things could be far better (as is true of most anywhere).
Tara Reis March 03, 2012 at 02:32 AM
Hi Sue. Everyone who pays taxes definitely has a voice! Charter schools definitely focus on education differently. Public schools accept all children while charter schools will send a student back to their "home school" if they are a behavioral problem. This might seem ideal to some people, but when it comes to "choice", public schools don't get to choose their students. Anger over money? It's not an article, column or research paper. It's a blog. And yes, as an involved parent who has logged thousands of hours in our schools and over my own homework table, it makes me angry that charter and cyber schools can get millions of dollars with no accountability, spend thousands on advertising and have un-certified faculty members. WHSD has a lot to be proud of and believe me, I work daily to promote all that we have to offer to our current and hopefully, incoming students. Thank you for residing in Woodland Hills!
Sue T March 03, 2012 at 03:05 AM
Keep in mind, you are posting under the title of School Board Director. This does not give the impression of an angry parent. It gives the impression that the view of the Woodland Hills School Board is that charter schools are "competition" and should be closed. That is why I suggested you try and "sell" the school district rather then criticize every parent is entitled to make.
Sue T March 03, 2012 at 03:06 AM
Sorry that should read criticize the decision every parent is entitle to make.
Sue T March 03, 2012 at 03:26 AM
I have to say one other thing. Don't paint all charter schools with a black brush. Let me tell you about a handful of students on my street. I apologize in advance I don't know the names of the schools. One attends a school in Monroeville that specializes in autistic children. A second was considered smart, but a trouble maker at WH. He has been at a charter school for minorities that excel, and he is excelling now and well adjust. Three others attend the environmental school. I have a masters in both geology and chemistry and work for an environmental firm and these kids come over ask questions and want to learn. I'm shocked at how much they know as elementary students. I am thrilled these children have the educational opportunities their parents have found for them.
LENORE WOSSIDLO March 03, 2012 at 01:32 PM
I know that charter schools need to be accountable. Whether or not that is actually reviewed by the State is another issue. My son's charter school has SHOWED US what accountability they have to provide and proves to us that they do provide it. All of their teachers are certified or are obtaining additional certification while they work. How do I know a lot of this? I am involved, and the school shares with us; they don't keep records behind closed doors. They share without us asking first. My older son attends a charter school that specializes in autism in Monroeville, the only school of its kind in the country! When he graduates, he will be able to get a job. I am amazed at how much my younger son who attends ECS knows at the age of 12. The students at ECS could have solved the PA budget crisis a couple of years ago, at a much faster rate than those in office! ALL students learn differently; the charter school gives them that opportunity!
Tara Reis March 03, 2012 at 09:01 PM
Wow, you folks sure are passionate and I'm sure you can appreciate my passion for my beloved District. Obviously, I am thrilled that we have a charter school that is specifically designed to help autistic children. It's a shame there aren't more, since autism is much more prevalent than it was when I was a child. As a Board Member of a public school district, it is my duty to support the schools I represent. My belief in our schools is not faked or questionable. If I thought our schools couldn't offer everything a student needed and were inferior to charter schools, I would have no business being on the Board. Thanks for reading and continue your involvement in your childrens' schools. I'm sure we ALL can agree that there is a direct correlation between parental involvement and a child's academic achievement and behavior.
Steve Karas March 04, 2012 at 01:15 PM
This editorial started by mentioning the Governor's budget. It is true that Mr. Corbett cut education: 10% cuts for K-12, $260 million in grants eliminated that helped schools keep small classes and implement proven services, 50% in cuts to state colleges, as well as completely eliminating other programs. The Governor then asked teachers to accept a pay freeze, asked districts to lay off teachers with seniority, AND has tried to make it more difficulty for districts to make up for this loss of revenue. Overall this budget decreases PA spending only about 3%! So Corbett and the Republican controlled legislature have essentially placed the burden on our teachers, schools, and children. Do more with less and we do not value public education is his message. Think there is no money? Corbett's budget INCREASES: state police funding, state prison funding, state retirement funding,adoption programs, and initiates a regressive voter ID law. All while allowing drilling to occur without proven safety measures and, when compared to other states, an incredibly low impact fee to the industry he is well connected to with his staff members. What we are seeing in our classrooms, and why we are disagreeing about charter schools or how we educate our children, is the direct result the misguided use of taxpayer dollars. It is the result of misguided priorities and an open demonstration of public malice by those in the current administration which negatively affects our communities.
Laura Moore April 26, 2012 at 08:17 PM
The difference between my WHHS building and the charter down the street is vast. They can mandate parent involvement, we cannot. They have an ample number of volunteers, we do not. They can choose their students, we cannot. Unfortunately parents think charters are a "grass is greener" scenario. Parents walk into my classroom with a preconceived mindset of how my classroom will operate and how effective I will be as a teacher. Before I even get a chance to teach a lesson I am being judged as ineffective and incompetent because of the 'reputation' of my district, a district I went to and proudly graduated from. I feel as though we are caught in a Catch-22. The involved, concerned parents flock to the charter schools. But if all of the concerned and involved parents go there who is remaining at the public school? Our few, strong voices are being drowned out by the naysayers. I don't understand how public money can be used to fund charter schools that are able to select their students. The purpose of charter schools was initially to improve the public school system, but all they are doing is draining our resources, taking some of our most involved families, and labeling public schools as false failures. IF charters are truly here to improve the public school system why are most failing? Yes, MOST charters (some whopping number) do NOT outperform their public counterparts. The question is: why aren't they being shut down or having their funding drained?


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