State Representative Brendan Boyle, one of four candidates to fill gubernatorial candidate Allyson Schwartz’s 13th congressional seat, wrote an op-ed that was published last week in the Philadelphia Daily News, about the need to provide universal kindergarten to all of Pennsylvania’s 22,000 children.
Boyle correctly states that “children from low-income areas who are enrolled in such programs are 40 percent less likely to be held back or need special education, 30 percent more likely to complete high school and twice as likely to attend college.” Unfortunately for my community, the very same policies Boyle is funded to support have put the half day kindergarten program at Upper Darby School District at direct risk, repeatedly.
Representative Boyle received $56,000 for his state house re-election campaign from the Students First PA PAC (a pro-charter, pro-voucher organization) during the 2012 cycle alone. Students First contributions amounted to 23.78% of his campaign’s overall donations for the 2012 cycle. It’s also $1,466 more than a year’s salary of a third year special education teacher with a Master’s degree, teaching in the School District of Philadelphia.
He also accepted $25,000 in campaign contributions from Fighting Chance PAC during his 2012 campaign. This is a pro-voucher group that was created two years ago in the wake of parochial school closures in Philadelphia and Delaware County, and great investigative reporting by Will Bunch shows that its main funders are the same people who created Students First PA PAC, three extremely wealthy hedge fund founders from Bala Cynwyd.
Both organizations advocate for defunding traditional public schools, but by having two separate organizations, the founders seek to divert attention from the casual peruser of campaign finance reports. A quick google search tells you everything you need to know.
I was an advisory board member in 2013, for a program sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania Project for Civic Engagement, in the wake of another massive budgetary shortfall at Upper Darby SD of $9.7 million. Over the past three years alone, $10.6 million in UDSD funding has been diverted to charter schools, none of which are located in Upper Darby Township.
Community members were asked to scribe their preferences for what should be eliminated and what should be protected in the 2013 – 2014 UDSD budget. A lengthy list of potential areas of program and staffing cuts was provided, with point values based on their overall expenditure amount. Each attendee had to reach 100 points worth of cuts to balance their own version of the budget, and each point was worth approximately $97,000, to simplify the data visualization. The results of the aggregate data was meant to aid the UDSD school board in making budgetary cuts that would please the most taxpayers and meet all the legal mandates necessary to keep the schools open and in compliance, not an easy task.
(Full Report from the University of Pennsylvania Project for Civic Engagement)
As you can see, eliminating UDSD’s entire kindergarten program would only amount to 24 points, so many other things would have to be cut in addition to that item, to close the budget deficit largely created by charter schools.
In group after group, participants listed the elimination of kindergarten in the “No Way, No How” category. Check out the many, many options for cuts my community was forced to explore and endure to close a budget deficit created by awful state education and budgetary policy.
Not only do Upper Darby residents understand the importance of a quality kindergarten program more than Representative Boyle, they also understand the ironic truth that eliminating the program would only increase overall charter school costs to our community, perpetuating our fiscal woes. Without a unionized teaching staff and many other additional costs, charter schools in the region can offer full-day kindergarten, while UDSD has struggled to keep its half-day program afloat.
Parents send their children to a full day program to save in daycare costs, putting traditional public schools in fiscal disarray, for no reason other than politicians’ preferential treatment toward charter schools.
Pennsylvanians don’t need Representative Boyle to make them aware of the need for kindergarten programs. They need him to fight for their funding, instead of siphoning it away for his top campaign donors.