Jennifer Dieringer: ‘Our public schools are the bedrock of our democracy’

Friday, March 08, 2019

On the heels of the state’s third denial of the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School’s request for expansion (notably because PVCICS has fewer low-income students and English language learners than local public schools, and because special education children sometimes leave PVCICS to return to their public schools), the charter school has requested from the Amherst and Northampton school districts the names (and addresses) of their public school students so they may attempt to recruit them.

This request was made by JLS Mailing Services, Inc., whom PVCICS paid out of its advertising budget, which in 2017 was approximately $110,000.

Meanwhile, parents in Northampton Public Schools fundraise in order to provide teachers with basic supplies, nurses with clothes for students in need, libraries with books, and kids with field trips and playground equipment.

In fiscal 2019, Northampton paid local charter school tuition in the amount of $2.69 million, and was reimbursed $313,146 by the state. The governor’s budget for 2020 projects that Northampton will be required to pay charter schools $2.87 million, with a reduction in reimbursement to $191,753.

It pains me how divisive this issue has become in the Valley. It pits families against families, friends against friends, and it saddens me greatly. But with a scenario this stark, it simply cannot be ignored.

Our public schools are the bedrock of our democracy, and they are being devastated by our neighboring (but not neighborhood) charter schools.

Jennifer Dieringer