With COVID-19 turning everyone’s world upside down, legislators in Pennsylvania and Oregon still made sure to keep the special interest groups that make up the bloated and sclerotic government education complex, “Big Ed,” sated and satisfied, even if it was to the detriment of their schoolchildren constituents and their harried parents.
In Pennsylvania, both houses of the General Assembly and Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf have signed off on SB 751, a bill that would block virtual charter schools (which, keep in mind, are still public schools) from receiving tuition payments for students who enrolled in them after March 13. These payments would continue to be blocked for the remainder of the commonwealth’s school shutdown, which is tentatively scheduled to expire on April 6, but will most likely continue beyond that date.
This was done following a successful lobbying effort by the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA) after fears the virtual monopoly that traditional public schools currently have on education would be disrupted by parents choosing to enroll their kids in an education option that keeps them learning during this time of self-quarantining and social distancing. According to the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charters Schools, more than 37,000 children throughout the commonwealth attend a virtual charter.
WHYY-TV reported that Mark DiRocco, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators, is concerned “that if cyber charters are allowed to remain teaching and resume ‘full operation’ while brick-and-mortar public schools are closed, parents trying to find the least disruptive option for their children might be tempted to switch to cybers.” Quelle horreur! Heaven forbid that parents would have the audacity to find the “least disruptive option” for their children. Can’t have any of that.
PASA wasn’t the only member of the Big Ed complex in the Quaker State to flex their political muscles to deny kids schooling. Rick Askey, president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, an affiliation of the National Education Association, the country’s largest union and special interest group, emailed union rank and file to ensure them that there were “many things [PSEA] is looking into for you,” regarding the COVID-19 crisis. Among those many things was “how we can prevent mass numbers of students from enrolling in cyber schools.”
PASA and PSEA want no competition, and are ensuring they have none by doing whatever it takes to eliminate any sort of educational option open to parents. As Corey DeAngelis of the Reason Foundation explained, “Imagine if dine-in only restaurants lobbied to close all restaurants with carryout during the crisis. That would be ridiculous. Yet that’s exactly what’s happening with the education system in Pennsylvania.”
Not to be outdone, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) isn’t just blocking the state’s virtual charters from getting paid for newly enrolled students, she’s blocking them from enrolling new students completely. Brown’s Executive Order 20-08 shuts down the Beaver State’s entire school system, and decrees that no virtual school may “enroll new students during the period of closure,” which is scheduled to run until April 28. About 13,000 Oregon children attend a virtual charter school.
Instead of saying “God bless, happy trails, do what’s best for you and your children and we hope to see you back next year when things are back to normal,” Big Ed is forcing Pennsylvania and Oregon families to remain in a state of education limbo because they care more about their money and their retention of power than they do your children. This is a shameful act by the public officials in Pennsylvania and Oregon during this time of national crisis. Parents in these states should absolutely not allow them to get away with it.