Concerns Over School Choice Advocate Taking Charge of Chester's Struggling Schools

Lauren Williams's picture
Friday, August 24, 2012

It might have once seemed unthinkable: Handing the keys to a large, troubled public-school district over to a high-profile advocate for increasing privatization, including vouchers and for-profit private schools.

But activists said that last Friday's surprise announcement that Gov. Corbett had named the Rev. Joe Watkins - an MSNBC pundit who headed the Students First PAC, the pro-voucher group that's dumped millions of campaign dollars on Corbett and other pols - as chief recovery officer to run the Chester Upland schools in Delaware County marks a tipping point.

They said the choice proves that the Corbett administration is accelerating its push to privatize education in Pennsylvania and benefit charter schools like the Chester Community Charter School - managed by the governor's largest single donor, Vahan Gureghian - at the expense of traditional public schools that are losing dollars, teachers and students.

Watkins acknowledged he'd also done some recent work as a consultant for Gureghian's school, which educates more than half of Chester Upland's elementary- and kindergarten-age kids and has a huge stake in key decisions Watkins will make.

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