by Karel Kilimnik
Years ago the garden of privatization seeds were sown, the garden well tended by corporate disruptors, and now in full bloom. The current administration, led by the Broad Academy-trained Superintendent William Hite, has been steadily outsourcing everything from school staff to special education services to support for central administration.
Crumbling and toxic buildings, along with past and future school closings, give lie to the District’s stated goal of having “a great school close to where children live”. Not long ago children walked to their neighborhood school. Teachers spent their career teaching in one or two schools. That has all changed now as the winds of corporate reform continue to blow through the District.
Corporate education supporters hold Board and CEO positions at many of the vendors who are offered contracts before the Board this month. Attuned Education Partners (Item 7) is rife with officials from TFA, Broad Academy, Relay GSE, and McKinsey & Company. The Executive Director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education is on the Board of Relay GSE Board.
Item 6-Amendments to Contracts with ACS Consultants, EBS Healthcare, and Progressus Therapy – Special Education Teachers diverts more taxpayer money into the pockets of outside vendors as the District continues to struggle to recruit and retain teachers.
An honest effort toward teacher retention includes examining working conditions. Teachers have been held accountable for the failures of No Child Left Behind and the testing culture that permeates school systems. Additional stressors here include incompetent school leadership and continual turmoil inflicted by the Acceleration Network and Priority Schools turnovers. Before the corporate “dump the losers” mentality took hold, it was not uncommon for teachers to spend their professional life in one or two schools. That is true stability.
Items 41 through 47 (Mastery Charter School Renewals) present a list of seven Mastery Renaissance Charter Schools, most of whose new contracts have lingered unsigned for years. The Charter Schools Office (CSO) now recommends what amounts to retroactive renewals–without calling them that–some as far back as 2016. Although 5 of these Renaissance schools were recommended for 5-year Renewals with Conditions by the CSO when they first came up for a vote, the conditions have now been disappeared by the CSO. The renewals specify that they “ do not include any school-specific conditions”. What was removed that Mastery did not want to implement? The public was never told what the conditions were, so we have no way to know what was rejected by this charter operator. The District conducts all charter renewal agreements in secret. The SRC treats charter schools as clients, not as public schools, and the Board is continuing that practice. Where is that data proving the success of the Renaissance Charter School Program in ensuring “that all students have a great school close to where they live”? The District website states: “A Renaissance Charter School is a neighborhood school that is operated as a public charter school and can only enroll students from the neighborhood, also known as a catchment zone.” But Councilmember Helen Gym’s report provides data showing a rise in out-of-catchment students at several Renaissance charter schools.
Allowing negotiations between charter management companies and the District to be conducted behind closed doors, and allowing Charter operators to refuse to correct their academic and financial deficiencies, simply continues the SRC practice of providing cover for charter operators at the cost of actual public schools. Based on the District’s 2019 Budget Vendor List, the projected cost for these seven Mastery Renaissance Charter Schools over their five-year contract is $$888, 494, 511.
Charters grow like weeds as they regularly apply for amendments to increase school enrollment (Items 39 & 40 KIPP Charter School ). Inadequate public information is provided for these expensive Items; in fact, there is not even a cost posted. The SRC actually provided far more details than the skimpy descriptions given by the Board. One of the four Board’s stated priorities is “Transparency”. Failing to provide adequate descriptions of what is being voted on does nothing to support that commitment.
….the Board refused to approve any more enrollment changes for charters until district-run schools were all housed in healthy buildings?
October Board of Education Action Meeting: Thursday October 17, 5 PM at 440 N. Broad Street. To register to speak, call 215.400.5959 by 3 PM Wednesday October 16, or fill out the form on the Board’s webpage.