Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Charting a New Course in Chester

Swarthmore College music professor John Alston is the founder of the Chester Upland School for the Arts. He partnered with the school district to start this promising school. Now four years later, budget cuts and the district's reorganization has left it bereft of teachers and in limbo.

He is convinced that its future rests on it becoming a charter school. My print column is up.

UPDATE: "lfeinberg" comments:
CMON GIL - next column you'll be telling us that charters and vouchers cure the common cold.

The DING DING moment was when the Governor's budget cut Chester Upland's budget by $29,000 per classroom while it only cut Radnor's by $950 per class. 
I am hoping "lfeinberg" is Larry Feinberg, the Haverford School Board director and Chairman of the Delaware County School Boards Legislative Council, I will be contacting him soon to find out.

The "ding ding" moment he refers to came twice to Alston. First when the CU Super Greg Thornton convinced his group to partner with the school district and second when the district was forced to cut 70 percent of his teaching staff and he realized that the only way for them to create and keep a great school was to be free of district and union interference with the power to hire their own teachers and staff. 

lfeinberg makes a fair point. One that people should remember. 

They should also remember this, summed up neatly by Gerald Ford: 

"A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have. 

Except that in this case, as I understand it the state cut its subsidy to Chester by 20 percent. If my math is correct that means the state was funding the district to the tune of $150,000 per classroom and cut that down to $120,000 per classroom. If it cut Radnor's slice so little it's because it was giving it so little in the first place.

There will be no forthcoming columns about vouchers and charters curing the common cold. But there might be about how they provide a chance to improve the educational opportunities and outcomes for a great many Chester students.


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