Statewide charter advocate ousted for comments about protesters
The Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools ousted its leader over insensitive comments on Facebook in which she called Black Lives Matter protesters "disgusting."
Philadelphia-based WHYY first reported the post on executive director Ana Meyers' personal Facebook page — which has since been deleted — in which Meyers defended police and asserted, "all lives matter" after a protest at the end of May.
Meyers has been an outspoken voice in York County and across the state in advocating for charter schools, often saying that funding cuts disproportionately harm students of color and low-income students who benefit from such schools the most.
While she has done a lot for charters across the state, her recent post was "unacceptable" for including "racist dog whistles and condemning protesters," said York Academy Regional Charter School CEO Angela Sugarek.
"Words matter. As educational leaders, it is time for us to realize that we are part of the 'system' in systemic racism and we have to do better," she said in an email. "Our students and families deserve better."
Meyers could not be reached for comment Friday.
Meyers' controversial post came in response to a post from Northampton County Emergency Alerts which described protests in Philadelphia as "violent" and "out of control," according to reporting from WHYY, a public radio news station.
Meyers said that George Floyd's murder was not OK but neither was the looting and violence against police.
"We cannot generalize and make it seem like every police officer is bad," she wrote on her Facebook page. "I guarantee that if your house is robbed you will be calling the police to protect you...these protesters disgust me. All lives matter!"
Meyers apologized in a subsequent Facebook post on June 5, saying as the wife of a retired state trooper, she got emotional and her personal remarks were the "wrong message at the wrong time."
"In doing so, I failed to acknowledge the pain, anger and grief of the good and honorable people who were protesting his death and seeking rightful justice," she said.
"All lives matter" has been recognized widely as a phrase used by those who do not support the Black Lives Matter movement.
And considering the high percentage of minority and economically disadvantaged students in public charter schools across the state, some felt the damage by Meyers was already done.
Anthony Lepore, the chief of staff for the state Senate Democratic Caucus, said he wasn't surprised by Meyers' actions, alleging she'd had other offensive posts in the past.
"She may be 'disgusted' by those protesting for justice, but I’m disgusted that the state’s largest charter school org is still represented by a known bigot," he said on Twitter.
Edward Fuller, an associate professor of education at Penn State University focusing on educational leadership and education policy, said if Meyers does support Black Lives Matter, her actions need to speak for it.
In a statement released Monday, the public charter schools coalition board of trustees said new leadership was "in the best interests" of its member schools and the families they serve and that they would be seeking a replacement.
The board acknowledged her efforts to create more opportunities for minorities and economically disadvantaged students in the past three years while also reinforcing its stance on racial justice.
"Public charter schools stand for inclusion, diversity and educational opportunity," the statement reads. "The Coalition and its member schools share a mission that rejects racism and injustice and seeks to overcome them."
The state's 180 charter schools serve more than 143,000 students.
A Stanford University study on charter school performance in the state, released in 2019, showed that 43% of the charter population was black compared with 12% of the traditional public school population in the 2015-16 school year.
In fact, charters have been created specifically to serve minority populations, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
"Many charter operators make the strategic decision to open charter schools in underserved neighborhoods with high concentrations of low income, minority, and low performing students," the alliance posted in 2011-12.
And from 2000 to 2017, diversity has only increased in these schools, the National Center for Education Statistics reports.