One Example of What’s Wrong With America

January 1, 2009

I may be criticized for this post but I will post it anyway.

In the poverty-stricken city of Chester, Pennsylvania lies one of the most-reported on charter schools in the state, the Chester Community Charter School.  Unfortunately, based on some recent readings in the Philadelphia Inquirer, I am forced to make some conclusions.

  1. It is quite possible that Vahan H. Gureghian is an individual of highly questionable moral character.
  2. The State of Pennsylvania must take immediate action to reform the operations of Chester Community Charter School.

A small fraction of money that I personally pay in Pennsylvania State Income Tax, along with money from millions of other Pennsylvanians, has been used to fund the operations of this school, and ultimately concentrated into the wealth of Mr. Gureghian.  One recent article in the Inquirer alludes to the immense wealth of the Gureghians.  Many Americans do not even have room in their budget to contribute more than $20 to a political campaign or a non-profit organization, yet these individuals have the werewithal to throw hundreds of thousands of dollars around in efforts to influence how politics is played out.

A recent editorial offers some solid recommendations on changes at the state level that might help address this problem — standardized funding methods with less potential for abuse, minimizing potential for nepotism and financial mismanagement, etc., and hopefully they are carried out.

The field of statistics can help answer questions about data sets that have outlying values that are interesting in some way.  In Olympic diving, if a diver receives the following scores from a panel of judges: 8.0, 8.0, 7.5, 8.5, 8.5, 7.5, 2.5, one might assume that one judge who issued a score of 2.5 was biased or unfair in some way.  If one looks at the number of home runs Brady Anderson each year of his Major League career, his 1996 season with 50 home runs is extremely curious, as he did not hit more than 24 home runs in any of his other seasons.

Similarly, statistics could be used to analyze money being allocated to Chester Community Charter.  One would make a list of all charter schools in the State and calculate the percentage of students at each school who are classified as disabled.  Schools with a value much lower or higher than expected would be singled out for further study in an attempt to explain the observation.  This is especially important because the amount of money that the State pays the Charter School for disabled students is substantially higher than that paid for regular students.  While this per-pupil expenditure difference may be legitimate, steps must be taken to ensure that students are not fraudulently identified as disabled so the school can obtain extra money.  Hopefully these are carried out.

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