AllentownSchool District

Superintendent's Message: Governor Wolf visits ASD regarding charter school reform

Letterhead

August 14, 2019

Dear ASD Families and Community,

The Allentown School District was pleased to host Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf at Harrison Morton Middle School on Tuesday, August 13, 2019. The governor chose ASD to announce a series of proposed charter school actions.  Governor Wolf recognizes “Pennsylvania’s flawed and outdated charter school law is one of the worst in the nation.” The governor outlined his vision at a press conference.

Governor Wolf was accompanied by Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera and Bethlehem Area School District Superintendent Dr. Joseph Roy. Attendees included Representative Peter Schweyer, a representative for Representative Michael Schlossberg, Allentown Mayor Ray O’Connell, Lehigh County Executive Phillip Armstrong and the Allentown School Board President and board members.

Key points from my remarks. You can view the full press conference here

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wHDf6Liya_A

  • Allentown School District is ground zero for the impact of growth in charter school expense in Pennsylvania.
  • ASD’s stance is not anti-charter, but pro-school district, pro-city of Allentown.
  • ASD is one of many urban districts experiencing both fiscal and academic challenges which threaten to impact our purpose, to ensure every child in our city has access and opportunity to the American Dream.
  • In 2017 the School Board of Directors commissioned a comprehensive Fiscal Audit, Strategic Framework and subsequently a Curriculum Audit to address the challenges facing ASD.
  • Thanks to the partnership with the Department of Education, Secretary Rivera and the Carbon Lehigh Intermediate Unit 21, we have begun the work of addressing these longstanding issues.
  • The Allentown School District is projected to pay more than $60 million in charter school tuition fees this year. That is nearly 20% of the annual budget and the second largest expense after employee costs.
  • Charter tuition costs increased by 285% in less than ten years.
  • ASD expects to spend more that $42 million on Special Education programs this year, a 22% increase over the last six years. This year alone, we will need to add five autistic support classrooms to support 40 students, at an additional cost of more than $1 million.
  • Our district has experienced a 60% increase in the English Learner population in the past eight years.
  • The fiscal impact of resource deficiency is connected to academic performance. Every middle school in the Allentown School District has been identified as a Comprehensive School Improvement school by the state.Both William Allen High School and Dieruff High School have been identified as Target School Improvement schools, specifically based on the needs of the Special Education and English Learner subgroups in those schools.
  • This is not an issue of our children’s knowledge and ability.It is the outcome of resource issues that have limited the district’s ability to meet the needs of children.
  • Recently our Board passed a resolution seeking a voluntary reduction in tuition payments from charter schools that serve Allentown students.This is necessary to provide a balanced budget for the district without drastically reducing people and programs that serve our students.
  • The Allentown School District has worked to reduce costs and has been graciously supported by additional funding from the Commonwealth, and a district loan to allow us to move forward without drastically reducing programs for children.
  • We are at the cliff.We can either choose to visit the resource deficiency concerns upon the children we serve by further reducing people and programs. Or we can choose to advocate and find a way to address the needs of our students, without further creating a separate but unequal system of education in the Commonwealth.
  • Children in Allentown that are primarily Black, Hispanic, and economically disadvantaged must not be further removed from the opportunity that should be afforded to all.

It cannot be the narrative of this city, this region, this district, that Allentown students deserve less than their peers in other zip codes.  It cannot be our narrative that we educate our children with fewer resources. 


Sincerely,

 

Thomas E. Parker

Superintendent, Allentown School District