The Philadelphia Inquirer carried a recent story about the great popularity, outstanding performance, and tremendous enrichment opportunities and facilities at a charter school in the Northeast. Clearly, the parents and students who are lucky enough to be involved at MaST Community Charter School enjoy opportunities that are usually reserved for students at affluent suburban schools.
However, my reading of the glowing account of MaST's success tells me that a crucial part of the context is ignored – and that has to do with the demographic variables that are most closely correlated with academic performance. Only 20 percent of MaST's students come from low-income families, while the District rate is 65 percent. Only 30 percent are students of color; the rate in the District is 86 percent.
And although the baseline per-pupil funding is lower than the District's, MaST, like other charters, receives more than $25,000 for each special education student, which it is not required to spend on special ed students. Is this the "slush fund" that pays for all the bells and whistles enriching the academic program that the Inquirer story extols?
If MaST's educators are so talented, I wish they would open a school in North Philadelphia that serves a majority of low-income students of color. Instead of glowing accounts of privileged schools serving overwhelmingly white, middle-class children, I think the Inquirer should focus more attention on schools that are breaking the link between poverty, race, and academic performance.
We don't need to congratulate the deepening of inequity.
Deb Weiner is a veteran analyst/advocate of public education in Philadelphia.