June 18, 2018
Dear SRC Chair Richman, Commissioner Neff, Commissioner Burns, and Commissioner Green,
The SRC has scheduled a special meeting for 1 PM on June 21 for the purpose of voting on the 2017-18 cohort of charter renewals. As yet, no resolutions have been posted for that meeting. Nor is there a resolution posted for the charter amendment requested by Discovery Charter.
A June 11 Philadelphia Public School Notebook/WHYY story about the new charter rating system, “Philadelphia School District Nears New Accountability for Charters”, reports that there have been ongoing negotiations with charter operators about the district’s rating system.
The Notebook quotes both district and charter officials who confirm that negotiations between them about revamping the rating system have taken place without any public notification or inclusion.
In that spirit, the standard charter agreement has undergone “more than 60 negotiated changes” over the past year, according to Estelle Richman, chair of the soon-to-be dissolved School Reform Commission.
“These charter agreements incorporate a revised performance framework which provides charter schools with transparent and predictable accountability and ensures charter schools are quality options for students and families,” she said in a statement.
… If charters accept the terms in this revamped rubric — known as the “charter school performance framework” — the District will have a clear and mutually agreeable road map for deciding whether a school should close when its term expires or remain open for another five years.
If charters blanch at the deal, the incoming school board will inherit a dispute fraught with political implications and real-world consequences for tens of thousands of children.
There are a limited number of items the SRC is permitted to deliberate on in non-public meetings, including personnel and legal matters. “Charter rating system” is not one of them.
We understand that the district has also held convenings with charter operators in recent years, without public notice or inclusion, to discuss issues including the district’s rating system.
We ask that you respond to the following questions:
- When were the changes in the rating system negotiated by district and charter officials? How many meetings took place?
- Who was present during these negotiations?
- Why were these meetings, about a major policy change, kept secret from the public?
- Charter operators maintain that charters are public schools. Why would policy changes about any public schools be conducted in private?
- Why does the SRC allow the charter operators—the entities who are regulated—to determine how they will be regulated?
Could you please send the dates and minutes for all meetings or convenings held by the district for charter operators which were not posted as public meetings?
There has been no response from the SRC.
Resolutions were posted June 19th after this letter was sent. If you want to speak on these resolutions you must call 215-400-4010 by Wednesday, June 20th before 1 PM.