by Karel Kilimnik
Board Rolls Out Red Carpet to Charter Operators
Spring has arrived along with the annual crop of charter school amendments and renewals. Renewals come due when charters’ five-year terms are up. Amendments requests–for enrollment increases, name changes, relocation–can be submitted at any time, but often at the time of renewal. Incredibly, charter schools who have refused to sign renewal agreements have still been granted amendment requests. First, let us deal with Renewals. Presently on the Charter School Office (CSO) website is the 2018/19 cohort of 12 schools–with no active link for any school, so no way to see the renewal evaluation report.
Of the 18 schools in the 2017/18 cohort, one link is not posted ( Mathematics, Civics, and Sciences Charter School). The April 25 Meeting Agenda lists two Charter Amendments under consideration. Laboratory Charter School is requesting a change of location (Item 3). Laboratory operates one school across three separate campuses in three different neighborhoods–a K-5, a 5-8 and a K-8. Now Laboratory wants to consolidate all three into one location in East Falls at 3300 Henry Avenue. The District’s School Profiles page gives information on the Northern Liberties campus but not the other two; our written request for explanation has gone unanswered. The CSO Mid-Cycle Charter Amendment Evaluation Report specifically cites lack of community outreach about the relocation, yet still recommends approval of their request. The CSO page states that the Pennsylvania Charter School Law does not require districts to consider amendments: “The Pennsylvania Charter School Law does not provide for amendments to charters, and thus the Charter Schools Office (CSO) of the District is not required to review amendment requests from charter schools.” This may provide a legal basis for denying this request. Why is the Board in such a rush to grant this charter school’s amendment?
The Board has made several pronouncements about making community engagement a key part of its mission. It has created a District Partnership & Community Engagement Committee along with a Parent & Community Advisory Council. It is incomprehensible that they would consider approving this Action Item while excluding the community from the process.