During the 17-year reign of the SRC, charter renewals have been approved without any public review. Charters failing to meet standards in academic, financial and organizational areas were routinely renewed without any opportunity for the public to review the Charter School Office evaluations and make meaningful comments.
We have written two letters to the Board asking for them to create a new process for charter renewal, one that is open to the public and is not simply a rubber-stamp for charters that have failed to educate their students. We have also raised the issue in our testimony in Board committee meetings.
So far, we have received no answer to either of our letters.
March 19, 2019
Dear President Wilkerson and Members of the Board:
We write to you concerning the numerous charter renewals that have been postponed indefinitely by the School Reform Commission and the Board over the past three years.
The District has allowed several charters to operate past their 5-year terms. In most if not all cases, this is because the charters have refused to accept the remedies for deficiencies, referred to as “conditions”, that the District has recommended. The Board should discontinue the SRC’s practice of allowing charter operators to use their own refusal to address their schools’ deficiencies as a means of extending their 5-year terms. Several of the schools in question failed to meet academic, organizational, and financial standards. Because of the dearth of public information on these matters, we can only assume that the District has suspended all efforts to have these operators sign new charters. Thus, the idea of a 5-year term for charters becomes meaningless.
In 2016, Universal Audenried and Universal Vare were recommended for non-renewal by the Charter Schools Office. The SRC renewed Vare last year, but Audenried’s non-renewal remains on hold for three years now.
In 2017, twenty-three charter schools were up for renewal (see list below). The SRC voted to renew eight of them at its May 1 Action Meeting. No resolutions were posted for the fifteen who had refused to sign a new charter; thus, no pubic action was taken on them.
The District does not post a list of the charters that were not renewed, or why. The only way to find out which schools were given a de facto extension was to review the minutes of the May 1 Action Meeting and see the list of schools that then-Charter Schools Office Director DawnLynne Kacer included in her presentation. The remaining fifteen have been unofficially postponed since then. The District has allowed them to continue to operate without remediating any deficiencies cited by the District.
In 2018, seventeen schools were up for renewal (see list below). For those actually considered at the June 21, 2018 Action Meeting, the SRC voted renewal for nine and non-renewal for one. Again, no public action was taken on the remaining seven in that year’s cohort and no information provided on the reasons for the SRC’s lack of action or plan for any possible follow-up. Apparently, charter operators signaled their intentions to accept the new agreements or not through private negotiations with the District. All proposed conditions remain secret.
The District should release to the public all conditions offered to the schools that have been cited by the charter operators as reason for their refusal to sign a new charter agreement. The District should discontinue the SRC’s practice of allowing a 5-year term to extend indefinitely, especially when the charter school’s performance is substandard. When any school’s data and other information indicate that it is unable to provide a quality education to its students, the Board should begin proceedings to revoke that charter.
In the case of Renaissance charters, the District should review the latest renewal evaluation and subsequent performance data. If the school has not fulfilled its commitment to effect “dramatic” change in the school, the Board should take steps to return the school to the District.
The Board made a statement in its votes on new charter applications that charters must meet certain standards in order to be allowed to operate schools in the District. That should apply to already existing charter schools.
APPS has taken a leading role in advocating for accountability in the charter sector. We are requesting a meeting with members of the Board to address these issues. It is important that the public know how the Board is going to engage in a transparent and open process on this year’s and previous years’ renewals.
We look forward to your reply and to meeting with you.
May 2017 Renewal Cohort
- · Alliance for Progress Charter School – 5-year Renewal and approval of Amendment to increase authorized enrollment by 225 seats
- · Belmont Elementary Charter School – 5-year Renewal with Conditions
- · Boys Latin of Philadelphia Charter School – 5-year Renewal with Conditions
- · First Philadelphia Preparatory Charter School – 5-year Renewal with Conditions and approval of Amendment to change lottery preference
- · Franklin Towne Charter Elementary School – 5-year Renewal with Conditions and denial of Amendment to increase authorized enrollment by 375 seats and add additional authorized facility/location
- · General David B. Birney Charter School – 5-year Renewal with Conditions and approval of Amendment to change name of school
- · Green Woods Charter School – 5-year Renewal with Conditions
- · Inquiry Charter School – 5-year Renewal with Conditions and denial of Amendment to increase authorized enrollment by 200 seats
- · Keystone Academy Charter School – 5-year Renewal with Conditions and denial of amendment to increase authorized enrollment by 900 seats
- · KIPP West Philadelphia Preparatory Charter School – 5-year Renewal with Conditions
- · Laboratory Charter School of Communication & Languages – Non-Renewal and denial of Amendment to change facility/location
- · Mastery Charter School Cleveland Elementary – 5-year Renewal with Conditions
- · Mastery Charter School – Pickett Campus – 5 year Renewal with Conditions
- · Memphis Street Academy Charter School at J. P. Jones – Non-Renewal
- · Multicultural Academy Charter School – 5-year Renewal with Conditions
- · Preparatory Charter School of Mathematics, Science, Technology & Careers Charter School – 5- year Renewal with Conditions
- · Sankofa Freedom Academy Charter School – 5-year Renewal with Conditions
- · Southwest Leadership Academy Charter School – 5-year Renewal with Conditions and approval of Amendment to increase authorized enrollment by 560 seats (not the 608 requested)
- · Tacony Academy Charter School – 5-year Renewal with Conditions and denial of Amendment to increase authorized enrollment by 125 seats and approval of lottery preference
- · The Philadelphia Charter School for the Arts & Sciences at H. R. Edmunds – 5-year Renewal Conditions
- · Universal Creighton Charter School – 5-year Renewal with Conditions
- · West Oak Lane Charter School – 5-year Renewal with Conditions
June 2018 Renewal Cohort
- Francis D. Pastorius Mastery Charter School (Renaissance) – 5- year renewal;
- Hardy William Academy Charter School – 5-year renewal;
- KIPP DuBois Charter School – 5-year renewal;
- Math, Science and Technology community Charter School (MaST) – 5-year renewal;
- Philadelphia Academy Charter School – 5-year renewal;
- Young Scholars Charter School – 5-year renewal;
- Antonia Pantoja Charter School – 5-year renewal with conditions;
- Christopher Columbus Charter School – 5-year renewal with conditions;
- Discovery Charter School – 5-year renewal with conditions;
- Eugenio Maria de Hostos Charter School – 5-year renewal with conditions;
- Freire Charter School – 5-year renewal with conditions;
- Maritime Academy Charter High School – 5-year renewal with conditions;
- Pan American Academy Charter School – 5-year renewal with conditions;
- Universal Alcorn Charter School (Renaissance) – 5-year renewal with conditions;
- Universal Institute Charter School – 5-year renewal with conditions;
- Imhotep Institute Charter High School – 1- year renewal with conditions;
- Architecture and Design Charter School (CHAD) – nonrenewal.
March 15, 2019
Dear President Wilkerson and Members of the Board:
We write to you concerning the upcoming charter renewal decisions.
The Board has not scheduled a hearing date for the renewal of eight charter schools in the 2018-19 cohort. We ask that the board schedule the action meeting in which the Board will vote on the renewal items as soon as possible, or indicate in which currently scheduled meeting those votes will be taken.
The charter renewal process, like the charter application process, must be a public one. Charter schools are considered public schools. Charter schools represent the fastest growing item in the District’s annual budget. Thus all proceedings about them, including renewals and amendments, must be public. One public vote after months of closed-door negotiations with charter operators does not constitute a public process. Conducting closed-door proceedings in which decisions are made about public schools would be a violation of the Pennsylvania Sunshine Act.
The Board has made a commitment to transparency and public engagement. Thus, we ask the Board to:
- Schedule at least one public hearing, with public testimony, on this year’s charter renewals prior to the action meeting at which the deciding votes will be cast
- Post the Charter Schools Office renewal evaluation reports at least two weeks before the votes on the charter renewals
- Post notice of all meetings with charter operators of the schools up for renewal so that the public can attend
- Publish all conditions offered to charters as part of any “5-year renewal with conditions” recommended by the CSO
- Announce the date of the action meeting at which the Board will vote on charter renewals by the end of March
- Post all Action Items on charter renewals with full text and description
Thank you for your consideration. We await your reply.