Good evening. My name is Deborah Grill. I am a retired teacher and school librarian and a community member.
At the February 16th charter applications hearing Commissioners Green and Jimenez stated that legally the SRC could not take into account the impact of the added costs any new charters would have on district school students.
According to David Lapp of the Education Law Center, they are mistaken. In his testimony to the SRC in February 2015 he stated, “The bottom line is that there has never been a CAB or court holding that a fiscally distressed school district is prevented from considering the educational impact on all students, including students in district schools and existing charter schools, when deciding whether to approve a new charter school application. In addition, no cases have addressed these issues since the charter reimbursement was eliminated. As you identify problems with the merits of a particular charter application, you should be sure to also include, in the alternative, evidence and findings that approving the charter would negatively impact the educational experience of all students, including district students. The statutory text of the charter school law leaves the options for what districts can consider wide open and also specifically contemplates the impact on the “public school system.”
He then goes on to cite cases which may have lead to your interpretation of the law, explains why they do not apply to Philadelphia’s situation, and again advises you to include the facts that the district is financially distressed, and the burdens caused by the elimination of the charter reimbursement and the resulting stranded charter costs has caused the reduction of district provided services.
He further advises that no only is there no risk to doing this, but that you may be hurting the district by not raising these issues:
“If you never raise them, they will be waived and the CAB and the courts could be prevented from considering them, even if they are inclined to do so on their own. On the other hand, if you raise them and lose on those issues, then you are in the same position as if you never raised them to begin with.”
This raises the question, “Why did you not consider taking this route and decline to approve any new charters?”
It may be that counsel advised you that that was not the case, but you need to consider that that same counsel advised you that you had the power to suspend sections of the school code. Look where that got you.
But it could also be that you really don’t care about the negative effects that the costs of approving new charters would have on district schools. I would think that if you did, not only would you have pursued the course that Mr. Lapp recommended, but you would not have decided to incur more damaging costs by planning to turn three more schools into Renaissance charters.
Which raises another question: Who are you really looking out for? Our students or the interests of charter investors and those who stand to make a profit by privatizing public education?