I  'm taking a wait-and-see approach to the combined recommendation made by the York County Community Foundation and YorkCounts that, if enacted, would result in the York City School District becoming a district of charter schools.

And nothing but charter schools.

It's not that I'm resistant to such dramatic change in the way education would be delivered to children living in York City, it's just that I remain to be convinced such dramatic change would be the answer to the problem.

I suspect the 20 members of the York City Financial Recovery Advisory Committee might be taking the same approach.

I'm certain administrators, school board members and teachers in the city school district are doing the same thing.

Because this would change the whole world of public education in York City -- something never seen before, at least not in this area.

In a sense, it would be experimental. But an experiment with huge implications.

It clearly would be a systemic change in city schools, something seen as necessary by the Community Foundation and YorkCounts.

And that's part of what concerns me. I absolutely agree changes have to be made in the way York City schools go about their business, because the way they're doing things hasn't worked for a very long time, if ever.

But a change this big? I need proof.


One thing we all know for certain: York City taxpayers have been hit hard, harder than all other York-area taxpayers when it comes to school property taxes. York City schools have been on the verge of financial disaster for nigh on to 20 or 30 years.

Worse, there's the question of how well students are being educated even with all that money being thrown at the situation. Certainly scores on standardized tests haven't met expectations, though there has been some improvement lately.

I've always felt the reason for that has more to do with a lack of enthusiasm by parents in placing a value on education at home than what might or might not be working in the various York City schools.

Education starts at home. We all know that. Or should. And it seems obvious to me it starts in fewer York City homes than it does in other homes throughout York County.

And if that's true, all the changes in the world are not going to improve the education process for York City children. And it won't matter if the schools they attend are public schools, charter schools, religion-based schools or any kind of school.

A play on the old saying -- You can lead a horse to water (You can lead a child to an education), but you can't make it drink (but you can't make him or her learn) -- seems to apply here.

Add to that the fact the York City School District already has five charter schools, and none of them are doing anything special when it comes to academic achievement.

Yet York City taxpayers are paying for it. Top dollar, in fact.

This YorkCounts recommendation suggests it would resolve the city schools' financial issues, enrollment bleeding and community dissatisfaction, like bing, bang, bong.

I don't see how.

How does converting York City schools to charters -- in theory using all the same school buildings and staff, some administration, and something like a school board -- resolve any of the financial issues?

Where and how will the financial savings be achieved?

How will converting York City schools to charters improve grades, when students' academic accomplishments are no better in the five charter schools already dealing in the city?

I understand how the change to all charters would improve enrollment bleeding, since all students would be attending charters. There'd be nothing left to bleed.

And I'm not convinced the conversion to all-charter schools would improve community satisfaction. It might with some people, but unless grades go up dramatically and taxes are significantly cut, community satisfaction will be a tough sell.

So I'm waiting. I want to see some concrete proof -- not just pontification from on high -- that finances are going to improve, that taxes are going down (or, at least, holding steady) and I want to see academic achievement improve.

If those things happen, community satisfaction will take care of itself.

But before the financial recovery advisory committee decides to go the route of all-charters, it at least should insist that the charter schools already functioning in the city be proving their ability to do the job less expensively, with more academic achievement.

Because at present they're not doing any better than the public school system, despite having a more motivated student enrollment.

And that's just not good enough.

Certainly not good enough to throw the entire school district in that direction.

Columns by Larry A. Hicks, Dispatch columnist, run Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. E-mail: lhicks@yorkdispatch.com.