Myth: Traditional district public schools are adequately serving all kids.

Fact:  Some traditional district schools are serving kids very well – and they should keep doing what they are doing and educating as many kids as they can. However, of the 50 district public schools in Pittsburgh, 24 of them are currently performing in the bottom 15% of the state. Despite many initiates and efforts, Pittsburgh continues to have an intractable racial achievement gap. Last year, just 17 percent of African-American students passed the state math exams (PSSAs and Keystones), and only 34 percent passed the state reading exams.

Myth: Charter schools are not public schools and don’t serve all kids. 

Fact: Charter schools are open enrollment public schools. Students are selected by a blind lottery if more students apply than there are slots available. Unlike magnet schools (e.g. Obama, Sci-Tech, CAPA), charter schools may not discriminate in admission based upon a student’s academic record. In Allegheny County, demand for charter school is higher than supply.  Over 5000 kids are on charter school waiting lists in Allegheny County.

Myth: PACs are nefarious institutions that are only used to hinder democracy.

Fact:  Political Action Committees (PACs) are routinely used to help influence policy relating to education – and have been for years.  For example over $4 million was collected and spent in the 2014 election cycle in Pennsylvania by the following PACs from taxpayer funded public teacher unions:

Union 2014
Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA-PACE) $2,711,333
Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) $288,676
American Federation of Teachers Pennsylvania (AFT-PA) $33,300
American Federation of Teachers (Washington, DC – National) $1,057,315
Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers (PFT Pol Action Fund) $56,438
Total $4,113.762

(http://www.commonwealthfoundation.org/research/detail/political-spending-by-government-unions-during-the-2014-election)

Myth:  Families are not interested in school choice. 

Fact: The truth is that a majority of students in Pittsburgh do not attend their zoned neighborhood school. The below chart shows that at some schools anywhere from 70 to 83 percent of families are deciding not to send their children to their neighborhood school. The below chart does not capture the thousands of families who have already left the city for higher-performing suburban districts. For decades, families with means have been migrating out of Pittsburgh’s urban core to find better educational opportunities in wealthier suburbs. For poor families in Allegheny County, moving to a more desirable school district or school zone or attending a private school is not a viable option. They need quality public options, regardless if they are charter or district.

School % of children who attend their zoned neighborhood school
Arsenal Elementary School 26%
Woolslair Elementary School 17%
Colfax K-8 28%
Manchester K-8 27%
Sterrett 6-8 21%
U Prep 6-12 24%
Westinghouse 23%
Perry 9-12 30%

Myth: The problem is city schools are underfunded.

Out of 500 districts in Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh ranks 23rd in the amount of money spent per student. Out of the 43 school districts in Allegheny County Pittsburgh Public Schools spends more than 40 of them. In the 2014-15 school year, Pittsburgh spent $23,065 per pupil. Compare this the state average of just $15,855 per pupil, over $7000 less than what Pittsburgh spends.

Source:  The Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Annual Financial Reports for 2014-15

Myth:  Until we fix poverty, we cannot fix public education.

There is no question that socioeconomic status is the single biggest predictor of academic achievement in our country. However, there are hundreds of schools across the country, and some here in Allegheny County, both district and charter, that are proving everyday that race and poverty are not insurmountable barriers to academic success.  And the data is clear: charter schools are leading the way on providing better academic outcomes for minority students and those living in poverty.  A recent report from Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) studied the impact of charter schools in 41 urban areas (Pittsburgh was not included in the study). The CREDO study found that, on average, charters in these regions achieved 40 additional days of math learning and 28 additional days of reading learning versus their district peers. For African-American students in poverty, the additional days of learning days jumped to 59 and 44 respectively.

Myth:  The Campaign for Quality Schools is only interested in the expansion of public school charts.

Fact:  This is completely false.  As our mission states, we are about supporting any and all people and policies that grow great public schools, regardless of their governance structure.  We believe it will take a healthy mix of both public district and public charter schools to grow the number of great seats for kids.  Out theory is that at the top are great people, who in turn create the right conditions to then ensure great public schools.

Committed Parents, Community Members, Teachers, Principals and Elected Officials Who Will Ensure…

   · We have local school board members who put children and their success first

   ·  Policies exist at the state and local level that support strong district schools, including fair and robust teacher evaluation, keeping the best teachers in schools in times of furlough, & getting great teachers to kids who need them most

   · Charter applications are evaluated in accordance with the existing law, and not local politics

   · Ensuring there are high standards for charter renewals

   ·  Ensuring families have access to spaces in both traditional district and charter schools they wish their children to attend

   ·  Every seat is a quality seat

   This will then allow us to have a healthy mix of both…

Great Public District Schools Great Public Charter Schools

If we appear to seek the unattainable, we do so to avoid the unimaginable.