Board Renews Charters without Public Hearings

The Philadelphia Board of Education is just days away from renewing several charter schools, many of which have not met the basic standards set by the Board. The Board’s policies and practices ensure that the public has fewer opportunities to testify on how renewing the charters affect their neighborhood schools. The Board will also be voting to expand the enrollment of Keystone Academy Charter by over 40%, again with no public review. At its May action meeting, the Board added a Charter Schools Office presentation to the agenda just hours before the meeting convened and after they closed the window to sign up to testify. The Board holds no renewal hearings as other districts in the state do. Yet the Board will be voting to renew most of the twenty-two schools in this year’s cohort. Anyone who spoke at the May meeting–not knowing that the Board would be voting on the renewals next month– may be barred from speaking in June.

by Lisa Haver

To read more, click here.

Board Must Reject All New Charter School Applications

by Deborah Grill, Lisa Haver and Diane Payne

Every new charter school application is a budgetary and community assault on our current public school system as every charter school represents an unfunded state mandate. The charter school experiment concocted over twenty years ago–an experiment on mostly poor, urban, black and brown children–has failed. Clearly inadequate applications should be rejected at the outset. But the PA Charter law mandates that every application be reviewed and evaluated by the district’s staff, then reviewed for approval or denial by the elected or appointed board. Thus clearly inadequate and inexperienced applicants like Entrepreneurial Charter and perennial applicants like Aspira force the School District of Philadelphia to spend inordinate amounts of time and money for a months-long process. Despite the failure of these applicants to present a credible proposal to educate Philadelphia’s children, the Charter Schools Office (CSO)  must read and analyze lengthy applications with hundreds of pages of attachments, present a thorough and detailed evaluation, and participate in extensive and costly legal hearings–with the city’s taxpayers footing the bill for  hearing officers, attorneys, court reporters, and reams of documents. 
The District cannot afford any new charter schools. The District does not need any new charter schools.  The Board should reject all three new charter applications.

Please let the Board know at the action meeting on February 24 or March 3, in written testimony or in testimony by March 2, that they must vote to deny all of these applications.

Aspira Bilingual Business, Finance, and Technology Charter High School

Aspira Eugenio Maria de Hostos Preparatory Charter School

Philadelphia Entrepreneurial Development Academy Charter High School

Board Should Not Renew Substandard Charters

Not one of the 2021 charter schools in the 2021 cohort has met academic standards. The District’s Charter Schools Office, however, has recommended all for 5-year renewals. This represents a cost to the district of  approximately  $  $484, 053, 891. 

Most of the schools in this cohort failed to meet most of the conditions they agreed to in their previous renewal agreements. That should come as no surprise.  As then-CSO Director DawnLynne Kacer told the School Reform Commission in 2017, there are no formal consequences for failing to meet conditions. With this year’s recommendations, we see that there are also no consequences for not meeting conditions included in a legal surrender agreement clause. 

None of the seven Renaissance charters in the 2021 cohort meets academic standards. APPS cited District reporting in our 2020 analysis of the Renaissance charters in concluding that none of the operators came close to keeping their promise to turn around the neighborhood public schools:  The companies awarded contracts to manage  those schools promised to “effect dramatic change”  at “chronically underperforming schools”.  The District, over the past ten years, has spent hundreds of millions on Renaissance schools while getting very little in return. Although the Initiative stipulated  that “Renaissance Schools will be granted greater autonomy in exchange for increased accountability”, there has actually been less accountability, as seen by the repeated renewals of Renaissance charters that fail to meet basic standards, let alone surpass District performance.  

Note: All academic data taken from most recent CSO renewal evaluations, District school profiles and District SPRs.  All CEO salary/compensation data from 2018 and 2019 IRS Form 990s. Projected costs of operating of charter schools based on 2021 District budget information. 

This report was written by Lisa Haver, Karel Kilimnik, Deborah Grill, Diane Payne and Ilene Poses.

Click on the name of the school to read the report:

Universal Charter School at Audenreid

Universal Charter School at Vare Stem and Arts Academy

Mastery Charter Schools at Wister, Clymer, Gratz and Shoemaker

Richard Allen Preparatory Charter School

Global Leadership Academy at Huey

TECH Freire Charter School

Harambee Institute of Science and Technology Charter School

Lindley Academy Charter School at Birney

YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School

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.

Read more here.