will pennsylvania military charter school at valley forge be a fit for radnor township school dist

I just watched a replay of a Radnor Township school Board meeting. It was a special hearing about a proposed charter school. Now charter schools are always a hot button topic with school districts because essentially, they have to share money and resources. School districts never share well or necessarily willingly with charter schools.

First we met the man who would head the school, I guess (but I am not sure.) He’s on the board however. His name is Joshua Johnson. He had an extremely impressive and extraordinary military career. He was a Green Beret.

Also on the board, and present although he did not speak was retired Republican State Senator Bob Mensch (R-24) , who once served Bucks, Berks, and Montgomery Counties. Prior to that Senator Mensch was a State Representative in the 147th legislative district, and he started in politics as a Supervisor in Malborough Township Bucks County. I will note that Senator Mensh was instrumental in getting breast cancer legislation passed in PA, specifically bills SB 1225 for no-cost breast MRI, SB 1330 for no-cost genetic testing and counseling. I am an 11 year breast cancer survivor and I can tell you how awesome that is. Breast cancer is a financial albatross, trust me, and it is the gift that is like a financial black hole at times.

Here is how US News and World Report breaks it down:

Charter schools are publicly-funded, tuition-free schools, but they differ from traditional public schools in key ways. Comparing charter schools to public schools requires weighing a few different considerations.

First, charters have more flexibility. Rather than being part of a public school district, which dictates curriculum and standards in all schools, charters operate autonomously through individual agreements, or charters, with state or local governments that dictate rules and performance standards.

Given the ability to operate through these agreements, individual charter schools can tailor their curriculum, academic focus, discipline policy and other matters generally decided at the school district or state board level. In return for that flexibility, charter schools are supposed to be more accountable to parents and the state or local governments that authorize them….

The charter school movement, which gained prominence in the late 1980s and has been gaining ground ever since, began as a way to close the achievement gap between white and non-white students. Many charters still view that as a core mission.

But many of the same problems that plague traditional public schools are found in charters as well. New Orleans, where nearly all public schools became charters after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, still deals with the stratification of students and a pernicious racial achievement gap, says Adamson, who has studied the impact of charter schools in New Orleans…Education experts recommend that parents do research into the charter, visit the school and compare it carefully to the public-school alternative. Look beyond test scores and talk to educators who work at the school and parents who send their children there….Quantitative data includes test scores, graduation rates, college attendance rates and similar metrics, he says. Qualitative information could include surveys that measure student and family satisfaction, the type of curriculum they use, their beliefs and their policy on discipline.

So. I will state for the record, I do not have a problem with charter schools. Our child attended a very good one. But it was inclusive. Based on the Question and Answer segment after the presentation here, I am not sure what to think.

I did record it:

I do not know how this will play out, and honestly, I am not sure this concept will fly in the Main Line of today, even if it is proposed to be on the campus of an existing military school and college. One thing I do not get however is why the JROTC or whatever would go to Norristown, versus creating something on Valley Forge’s Campus?

The reality is Valley Forge Military Academy and College seems to be dying, doesn’t it? They have already sold off land, haven’t they? The school when you drive by no longer seems as crisp and tidy as it once was, does it? So what happens if there is no charter school approved? Do they keep slicing off bits of land and selling, or close up shop altogether and sell the whole kit and caboodle?

Valley Forge Military Academy and College itself has had a LOT of bad press in recent years. But in November an article in the Washington Post, was surprisingly positive. It was about Wes Moore, who was recently elected Governor of Maryland. Earlier this year, however, there was a scathing Mother Jones article about VFMAC

So it’s not just a simple conversation about charter schools. It’s also a conversation about military schools. There are however, other military based Charter Schools, and in the area too. Maritime Academy Charter School in Philadelphia and Philadelphia Military Academy at Elverson in Philadelphia. First State Military Academy in Delaware. Delaware Military Academy.

It’s not a stand alone idea that no one has done, I just don’t know how it will fly on the Main Line. Face it, Main Line School Districts don’t even ever want charter schools in my opinion. It means fund and resource sharing and it also is an ego thing since public schools especially on the Main Line are supposed to be the greatest period.

The sticking point here I feel will be what was raised by that parent who asked about how the school would handle sexual orientation, gender identity and/or expression. This resident did not see it in their mission statement. Mr. Johnson responded that gender identification and name would be the same as found on a student’s birth certificate.

OK ummm…Pentagon seems to feel differently these days, yes? Or are supposed to?

The Pentagon’s policies on this topic are discussed in an NPR article I found from 2021. (CLICK HERE FOR NPR ARTICLE.) Essentially this reversed the Trump era rules, which were what’s on your birth certificate. Biden lifted that ban in 2021 which is in the NPR article, so I do not know how this will shake out for this charter school. It’s an uncomfortable military topic. See CNN article (CLICK HERE.) See Military Times article (CLICK HERE.)

If this charter school wants a real chance, then they need to align with what the Pentagon now says, right?

I will also note that in 2021 Valley Forge Military Academy and College was DENIED a similar charter school application. (CLICK HERE.)

Philadelphia Inquirer: Radnor school board denies Valley Forge Military Academy’s bid to open a charter

by Maddie Hanna
Published May 28, 2021

The Valley Forge Military Academy, a long-standing Main Line private school that in recent years has faced declining enrollment and allegations of mismanagement, has been denied in a bid to open a publicly funded charter school.

The Radnor school board, which rejected the application Tuesday, said the proposed Valley Forge Military Academy Charter School wasn’t sufficiently independent from the private school. The charter was proposed to be located on the academy’s campus and would have paid rent to the academy.

“It appears that representatives from VFMA applied to form a charter school in an effort to subsidize VFMA and make VFMA available to students through the use of public funds,” the board said in its denial, which was posted on the district’s website Wednesday. It called the application “plainly against the spirit and the letter” of Pennsylvania’s charter school law….The school has been accused of overlooking sexual abuse and hazing. Enrollment has declined, and the school has incurred financial losses. Alumni have accused trustees of mismanagement, though the board has denied those claims and maintained the academy is on the right track….During hearings before the Radnor board, representatives of the military academy said some students interested in their school had been rejected due to their inability to pay tuition.

That isn’t a rationale for the school to form a charter, Radnor’s school board said — adding that the purpose of the charter law “is not to subsidize private school tuition through the use of public school funds.”…The school board cited other faults with the application, including that the academy had failed to respond to community concerns about hazing and abuse allegations at its school….And because some of the proposed charter’s facilities would be in Chester County, it erred in failing to also apply to the Tredyffrin/Easttown school board, according to the Radnor denial.

I found their presentation on Radnor Township School Board’s website, which I found cumbersome to noodle around on, so I will share below. I wonder since part of this VFMAC campus is in Tredyffrin, are they presenting a charter application to that school board as well>

I have no dog in this race, my goal here is to inform only. There is a meeting scheduled about this for in the new year. It is actually a continuation of the public hearing on this Charter School. The date the school board lady announced was Tuesday, January 17th, 2023 at 7 PM . If interested in this, pay attention to the meeting schedule and contact THEM. NOT ME. A new charter school is a relatively big deal, let alone a military one, so I am kind of surprised about zero media coverage. Have a good night.

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