Board Must Reject New Charter Applications

At 5 p.m on March 4, the Board will hold a special hearing to vote to accept or reject applications for five new charter schools. APPS members, who have analyzed the applications and attended both rounds of hearings, call on the Board to deny all five. The Board has rejected, with good reason,  all of the new charter applications before them since 2018.  The Board has been presented with five clearly inadequate applications this year.  Aspira has submitted two, despite their failure, every year, to meet standards in their Renaissance charters.

The Board will not have the Charter Schools Office make a presentation on their findings until minutes before they vote at the special hearing.  The Board has abolished its committees. Thus, community members will have only two minutes to speak on the issue just minutes before the Board votes in February. Public speakers were given only two minutes each to be heard at the first hearing in December;  no public testimony was heard at the second. In contrast, charter applicants have hours of time to sell their applications, not including private communications with the District.  As in previous years, APPS had to file a formal Right to Know Request in order to see the attachments, which contains  the budget, curriculum, and staffing information.

APPS’ analyses reveal serious deficiencies in all facets of the applications, many echoed by Charter Schools Office staff during the hearings. None of the applicants makes a strong case for approval. In addition, the shocking lack of preparation and knowledge about their own applications displayed in most of the hearings did little to instill confidence in their ability to operate schools and educate the children of Philadelphia.

The Board has raised the possibility of closing neighborhood schools and laying off teachers and support staff. The virus has devastated the local economy; tax revenues to the District will continue to decline.  The District does not need any new charter schools. The District cannot afford any more charter schools. The Board must reject all of these charter applications.

These charters, if approved, would cost the District approximately $245, 259, 998 in direct allotments and approximately $73, 543, 345 in stranded costs.

Please let the Board know, in written testimony or in testimony at the Action Meeting, that they must vote to deny all of these applications.

ASPIRA Charter Schools by Lisa Haver and Lynda Rubin

Empowerment Charter School by Deborah Grill

Philadelphia Collegiate Charter School for Boys by Karel Kilimnik

Pride Academy Charter School by Diane Payne

Board Must Reject New Charter Applications

by Lisa Haver

Three weeks from now, at its February 25 Action Meeting, the Board will vote to accept or reject applications for five new charter schools. APPS members, who have analyzed the applications and attended both rounds of hearings, call on the Board to deny all five. 

The Board’s January Action Meeting  did not include a presentation from the Charter Schools Office on the applications. The Board has abolished its committees. Thus, community members will have only two minutes to speak on the issue just minutes before the Board votes in February. Public speakers were given only two minutes each to be heard at the first hearing; no public testimony was heard at the second. In contrast, charter applicants have hours of time to sell their applications, not including private communications with the District.  As in previous years, APPS had to file a formal Right to Know Request in order to see the attachments, which contains most of the budget, curriculum, and staffing information. 

APPS’ analyses reveal serious deficiencies in all facets of the applications, many echoed by Charter Schools Office staff during the hearings. None of the applicants makes a strong case for approval. In addition, the surprising lack of preparation and knowledge about their own applications displayed in more than one of the hearings did little to instill confidence in their ability to operate schools and educate the children of Philadelphia. 

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Applicants Pitch Five New Charter Schools: December 21, 2020

by Lynda Rubin 

As in any drama or comedy, the cast of characters hints at things to come.The 2020 presentation of new charter applications brought back the same privatizing cast, some with different names, who continue the weakening of Philadelphia public education for their own financial and political gain. This is the annual attempt to expand the companies’ existing charter companies with the funding and protection of non-profits. The organizations behind the new charters may be non-profit in tax terms, but they are backed by for-profit edu-investors whose goal is to take the public out of public education.

For years, Philadelphia has been a Ground Zero for carrying out the ideology of the wealthy proponents of school choice.  Charter companies made many promises but produced few actual gains. Charter operators, with the collaboration of the SRC and the Board, have eluded meaningful oversight for over two decades. 

Click here to continue reading about the new applications hearing.

Analysis Shows Failure of Renaissance Schools

by Coleman Poses

In his swan song to the Board of Education last April, Dr. Chris McGinley requested that the Renaissance model be retired, due to its lack of accountability as well as the fact that schools were being coerced to adopt a model that was based upon school choice. Dr. Fix-Lopez promised to bring a motion before the Board to end the Renaissance program by October. Chairperson Wilkerson stated that the Renaissance evaluation that the district had been performing needed to be made public before a vote could be taken. Dr. Hite, however, prepared a way to continued existence for these schools by stating that policy 141, “The Renaissance Schools Initiative” needed to be “updated”.

At the Policy Committee meeting on September 10, the committee voted to update various charter policies. During this meeting, Committee Chair Maria McColgan kept assuring the charter school advocates on the Zoom that these policy changes had nothing to do with the existence of the renaissance program.

At the meeting, Charter Office head Christina Grant explained that the office was proposing conflating six existing charter school policies into two, and eliminating Policy 141.

Upon questioning by Committee Chair McColgan about how the elimination of Policy 141 would affect the operation and oversight of the Renaissance charters, Ms. Grant stated that these schools would continue to operate in exactly the same fashion that they have always operated, and that the monitoring and authorization of these schools would not change.

Why then, all the fuss about elimination of this policy? A closer look at the policy itself reveals that: “Renaissance Schools shall not exercise selective testing or erect other barriers to admission. All Renaissance Schools must enroll and serve all grade appropriate students that were enrolled at the school at the time of Renaissance School designation. Students who attend or through feeder patterns are slated to attend a school that is designated a Renaissance School shall be guaranteed a seat in the new school, subject to space limitations of the school.”

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