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Steven Singer: Charters Are Gobbling Up My Public School District

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Steven Singer doesn’t research or data to describe what is happening to his school district. He sees it. It is being gobbled up outsiders intent on turning public schools into charter schools and voucher schools. 

The state auditor of Pennsylvania said a few years ago that the Pennsylvania charter law is”the worst in the nation.”

Singer shows why.


Our middle school-high school complex is located at the top of a hill. At the bottom of the hill in our most impoverished neighborhood sits one of the Propel network of charter schools.

Our district is so poor we can’t even afford to bus our kids to school. So Propel tempts kids who don’t feel like making the long walk to our door.

Institutions like Propel are publicly funded but privately operated. That means they take our tax dollars but don’t have to be as accountable, transparent or sensible in how they spend them.

And like McDonalds, KFC or Walmart, they take in a lot of money.

Just three years ago, the Propel franchise siphoned away $3.5 million from our district annually. This year, they took $5 million, and next year they’re projected to get away with $6 million. That’s about 16% of our entire $37 million yearly budget.

Do we have a mass exodus of children from Steel Valley to the neighboring charter schools?


Enrollment at Propel has stayed constant at about 260-270 students a year since 2015-16. It’s only the amount of money that we have to pay them that has increased.

The state funding formula is a mess. It gives charter schools almost the same amount per regular education student that my district spends but doesn’t require that all of that money actually be used to educate these children.

If you’re a charter school operator and you want to increase your salary, you can do that. Just make sure to cut student services an equal amount.

Want to buy a piece of property and pay yourself to lease it? Fine. Just take another slice of student funding.

Want to grab a handful of cash and put it in your briefcase, stuff it down your pants, hide it in your shoes? Go right ahead! It’s not like anyone’s actually looking over your shoulder. It’s not like your documents are routinely audited or you have to explain yourself at monthly school board meetings – all of which authentic public schools like mine have to do or else.

Furthermore, for every student we lose to charters, we do not lose any of the costs of overhead. The costs of running our buildings, electricity, water, maintenance, etc. are the same. We just have less money with which to pay them.

Read his post in full. You will understand.


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