EDITORIAL: Revoking charter the right move

The York Dispatch
Helen Thackston Charter School, 625 E. Philadelphia St., York. Amanda J. Cain photo

Helen Thackston Charter School's days seem to be numbered. 

The York City school board voted last week to begin proceedings to revoke the school's charter, which was due for renewal next year.

Thackston has been under the gun since February, when the district demanded to see financial records and records about how many teachers at the school are certified.

Last week, the district laid out 22 reasons why Thackston's charter should be revoked, ranging from court cases involving the school and its landlord to incomplete audits to poor performance scores. Hearings will begin in August, and the process could take months or even years.

York City board votes to start Thackston charter revocation

Board President Margie Orr said the move was necessary.

“I’m not pleased that we have to take these steps, but it had to be done,” she said. “If we don’t do it, who will?”

This is the right move for the district. While there can be a place for charter schools in the education environment, Thackston is a poor example of an alternative learning space.

Thackston's school performance score from the state Department of Education fell to 37.9 for the 2015-16 school year, with only 7 percent of its 535 students being ranked as proficient or advanced in math and 24.4 percent in English language learning. 

By comparison, Lincoln Charter School received a 62.4 score overall for its 733 students, and York Academy Regional Charter School received a 68.3 score for 522 students. William Penn Senior High School, with 1,143 students, received a 45.2 score from the state.

What's next for Thackston? The charter appeals process

Those scores are still low — neighboring York Suburban High School received a score of 87.4 from the DOE — but the other charter schools are at least showing that their students can receive a relatively good education.

Thackston, on the other hand, does not seem to be putting in the effort needed to improve the lives of its students. And that's why the district needs to stop paying the company running the school and get those children into a better educational situation.

York City district starts process to revoke Helen Thackston charter

State Rep. Carol Hill-Evans, D-York City, has been working for charter school reform since she took her seat in the Legislature in January. Hill-Evans, who sits on the House Education Committee, has written and sponsored legislation to reform charter schools, including a bill to stop charters from enrolling new students once their charter has been terminated or the school has been notified it won't be renewed.

She also has sponsored House Bill 743, which would create a charter school oversight board to review applications for charters as well as renewals and revocations by local school boards.

She has spoken out against legislation that she said wouldn't hold charter schools to the same standards as public schools and would allow the charters to hold more funds in reserve than school districts do. She also said at last week's board meeting that all teachers at charter schools should be certified, just as teachers in school districts are required to be.

"I'm not against charter schools," she has said. "But we should all march to the same tune, and clearly we are not."

She's right. Students at charter schools deserve to receive an education at least on par with what they would receive at their home public schools. That means certified teachers, test scores that improve and financial accountability for the administration. 

Thackston has not held up its side of its charter, and so it's time for the school district to revoke the charter and get the students into a better situation.

York City district starts process to revoke Helen Thackston charter