May 12, 2023

Emily Miller: Another side to the school choice question

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Emily Miller is a board member for the Greensburg Salem School District in Pennsylvania, and in this guest op-ed for the Trib, she offers an explanation of charter schools that ought to resonate with conservatives.

There is another side to the question of school choice. How does this fit in with our system of self-governance? How does this work with taxation and representation?

Our system of self-governance, conceived by our Founding Fathers, is a constitutional republic in which, at each level — local, state and national — we elect from amongst ourselves representatives to make decisions regarding policies, bills, taxation, etc. We have a duty to keep tabs on our representatives by reading and paying attention to the policies and bills being discussed, as well as on how our representatives voted.

We can discuss with our representatives our stance on these policies and bills, and, on how our taxes, our hard-earned money, are being used. We can vote for other people to represent us, if need be.

None of this happens with school choice. Parents, who are not elected, take their neighbors’ school tax dollars to use at whatever charter school they choose, and this money is used the way a charter school wishes — taxpayers do not have a say in this.

The members of charter school boards are selected rather than elected. Even if a publicly elected school director is eventually required by law to sit on a charter school board (which has been proposed) that will still not provide taxpayers recourse, since none of the other charter school board members are elected.

Wastefulness by charter schools cannot be checked by taxpayers since there is no elected representation. Pennsylvania cyber charter schools alone recently spent $35 million in tax dollars on advertising over a two-year period.

If a charter school fails, tax dollars are simply lost — taxpayers do not have an opportunity to try to rectify the problems at the school by demanding improvements in curriculum or pedagogy or anything.

So, the function of charter schools amounts to private gain, public loss. And, taxation without representation.

Parents and taxpayers have the responsibility to make sure their local public schools and their elected representatives on public school boards are educating students to effectively shoulder the responsibilities of adulthood and citizenship as well as making wise use of tax dollars. How can taxpayers keep track of the possibly 15 or so charter schools operating in their local school districts?

There’s more. Read the full op-ed here. 

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