Board Rejects All Five Charter Applications

by Lynda Rubin

All Board members attended this special meeting, including the three recently inducted members.  There were just five items on the agenda:  to approve or deny new charter applications. In unanimously denying all five applications, the Board took seriously the concerns raised in both the evaluations of the Charter Schools Office (CSO)  and the APPS reports that analyzed the applications and researched the applicant’s founders and investors.

APPS members and other speakers stressed that the District does not need nor can it afford any new charter schools. Speakers also reminded the Board of their discussions about closing public schools and laying off teachers and support staff. The CSO, in their thorough and factual evaluations, found all five applications to be woefully sub-par academically, financially, organizationally.  None showed any significant community support.  APPS members laud the Board for this wise decision.  

The Board rejected applications from:

• Aspira Bilingual Business, Finance & Technology Charter      

•  Aspira’s Eugenio Maria de Hostos Preparatory Charter 

•  Empowerment Charter 

•  Philadelphia Collegiate Charter School for Boys 

•  Pride Academy 

This Board, reinstated after seventeen years of state control, has denied all new charter applications in its three years of governance. The “reform” movement that the School Reform Commission imposed on the city to carry out, has clearly failed, as demonstrated by the lack of sustained academic progress in most charter schools.

Unfortunately, the Board has voted to expand the grades and enrollment of existing charter schools, to allow renaming of Renaissance charters, and to approve charter relocations without notification of those in the affected neighborhoods. The Board has also refused to consider the requests of APPS members and others to hold charter renewal hearings and to discontinue their practice of negotiating these 5-year agreements in private meetings with the charter operators. 

For the first time at any Board meeting, CSO Chief Christina Grant narrated the power-point summary of the applications and the CSO’s evaluation. Thus, public speakers’ first opportunity to testify to the Board, subsequent to any formal presentation, was just minutes after Grant’s report.  In the past, the CSO presented at both the previous Action Meeting and at the now-defunct Committee meetings. APPS members also reminded Board members that while charter applicants had hours to sell their applications, members of the public would now have only two minutes to make their case. 

APPS co-founder Lisa Haver testified, “The district doesn’t not need and cannot afford any more charters.” This sentiment was echoed by several APPS members who are also retired teachers, librarians, counselors,  including APPS co-founder Karel Kilimnik,  Ilene Poses, Deborah Grill,  Lynda Rubin, and Barbara McDowall Dowdall. 

District teacher and education activist Kristin Luebbert testified in opposition to Philadelphia Collegiate School for Boys, expressing concern about the proposed principal, who had worked for Hudson Yards Success Academy in NYC. Luebbert pointed out that parents there had written a letter calling for his termination because of his “harsh and demeaning” behavior towards students.

Viktor Kagen, a 2020 Central High grad, described charters’ enrollment policies as “discriminatory”, adding that public schools provide a more  well-rounded education.  “Charter schools are businesses built on stripping money from disadvantaged public school students,” testified Kagen.

District educator Allison Fried urged the Board to deny Empowerment Charter, especially in light of their affiliation with Jounce Partners, a company that promotes rigid, routinized, demeaning practices for both teaching and controlling behavior. Fried testified that this “No-Excuses”program stifles children’s imaginations and their social development, being especially injurious to students who have experienced trauma.

Note: The next Board Meeting is one of the two required Public Meetings set aside by the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter to encourage public input on any topic. That meeting will be held on Thursday, March 18, 2021. Information about that meeting and how to participate can be found at The District’s Board of Education page.

Share your thoughts on public education at our upcoming public hearing.

On March 18th, the Board will hold the first of two meetings this Spring to hear your input on public education in Philadelphia.

  • What should the Board be aware of?
  • What can we be doing to ensure that every student in Philadelphia is given an education that allows them to achieve their dreams?

The next regular Action Meeting will be held Thursday, March 25, 2021 at 5:00 pm. The agenda and materials for that meeting can be found at the Board of Education, Meeting Materials page.