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Chester County Press

Don't reduce special education funding for charter schools

06/25/2014 09:56AM ● By Acl

An open letter to the Pa. General Assembly:

As an American student becoming increasingly aware of the world, I understand that our government is not exactly known for honesty, efficiency, or ability to govern. Today, I ask you to defy this notion. 

This country’s test scores are declining, literacy rates are plummeting, and for the government to continue to ignore education would be a folly of monstrous proportions. One essential aspect of an effective national education system is school choice, something which in Pennsylvania we may very soon lack. 

As you know, Senate Bill 1316 and House Bill 2138 plan to reduce special education funding for charter schools by thirty to sixty percent, but clearly this raises an issue: to act as though students with learning disabilities who attend charter schools deserve less than those at public schools is simply ignorant and discriminatory. These bills are no money saving scheme, they are an attack on charter schools. Simply forcing these institutions to close through massive funding cuts would displace special education students to district schools, exacerbating a funding issue for “higher” institutions of learning rather than remedying it. 

As a student of the Avon Grove Charter School in West Grove, to witness the actions of our government in this endeavor is embarrassing and discouraging. I desire to pursue a career in politics in the future, but now I understand that the problem with our government is simply that—politics. When our elected officials fail to see the citizens who elected them and instead focus on interest groups and statistics, it is no wonder that people no longer have faith in the institutions that are meant to watch over them. Nobody pays taxes so that you can diminish the quality of education for students with autism or dyslexia. Nobody elects you to isolate yourselves to Harrisburg in a Utopian bubble of policy and finance. There are real people whom you are meant to serve that will suffer from these legislative decisions. To see these bills as simple bipartisan compromises is myopic; there exists a world of developing minds around you which a simple vote may halt indefinitely. 

Pretend for a second that I am not a Charter student. Pretend that I am writing to you as an Eagle Scout, a National Security Language Initiative for Youth finalist, a student-teacher, a player of seven musical instruments, a National Honor Society President, and a humanitarian with a concern for the future and the environment. Now you could also pretend that I have become all of these things through the glorious district schools of Pennsylvania, and that benevolent and concerned school district administrators helped me all along the way, but I like to hope that senators and representatives are not in the business of pretending. Now, back to reality, I have achieved all of these things. Furthermore, I have done it all with the support of a charter school. Imagine that! Charter schools are not a second class education, stop treating us like second class students. To pass these bills may mean the demise of my school, and the demise of my education. Consider that when you sit down at your desk tomorrow morning. 

Anthony John Zunino III

Avon Grove Charter School student