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Carol Burris: Joe Roy, a Hero of Public Education

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Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education, writes here about Superintendent Joe Roy, a champion for students and public schools. I add him now to the honor roll of the blog.

Superintendent Joe Roy is a fearless fighter for better opportunities for the students that attend his small city school district of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.  His district is diverse, and about 60% receive free or reduced price lunch.

 

In 2016, he was the Pennsylvania Superintendent of the Year. This is what he said when honored, “I’m one person out of 2,000 people in the district who do great work. So many people contribute, and it’s nice to have the recognition, but it shouldn’t be one person.”  That is who Joe Roy is.

 

Two years ago, I spoke with Joe Roy who told me how his district is being drained of funding by charter schools and cyber charters. I was shocked by how much they cost. You can read about our conversation and what I learned here.

 

Now Joe is fighting side by side with other superintendents of Pennsylvania city districts whose finances are becoming unsustainable due to charter school drain. Joe therefore has become a target of the charter lobby. At a public meeting he said the following.

 

“During the question-and-answer portion of the news conference, a reporter asked Roy why parents choose charter schools. The superintendent listed a variety of reasons like academic programs, transportation — for some parents the limited busing to the district’s neighborhood schools is a turn off — and uniforms. The longer school day at some charters paired with the bus ride can mean real child-care savings for families, Roy said.

And some parents send their children to charter schools “to avoid having their kids be with kids coming from poverty or kids with skin that doesn’t look like theirs,” Roy said.”

What Joe Roy said, which anyone who has ever worked in schools knows, is that some parents engage in  “white flight.”  They do so through curriculum tracking or leaving a district for a private or charter school. 

 

The charter lobby of Pennsylvania was outraged! He is calling white parents who choose a charter school “racists”, they claimed. They called for a public apology. They called for his resignation. They did what many charter proponents have been doing lately since pushback against charters has begun–they twisted a statement and then bullied their target.

 

But Joe Roy works for a good board elected by the people of Bethlehem. This was their response:

 

“This board, all nine publicly elected members, support Dr. Roy and echo his comments,” board President Michael Faccinetto said. “We will not back down in this fight for charter reform, and we will not ask Dr. Roy to back down or be silenced because a few unelected lobbyists disagree with the facts.”

 

You can read the full story here

 

Joe Roy is a hero. He does not hate charter schools. But he hates what the 30 million dollars his district must handover to charter schools is doing to his students and taxpayers. He is seeing neighboring districts fall into real financial crisis. He believes in public education and so does his Board of Education.

 

Hooray for the leadership of Bethlehem for speaking the truth to the powerful charter lobby!

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