Deborah Grill testimony to the SRC – February 8, 2017


Tonight my testimony is going to be a rerun of the testimony I gave last March.  Now that we have 2 new commissioners, I believe it bears restating.  At the charter applications hearing last year Commissioners Green and Jimenez stated that legally the SRC could not take into account the impact that the added costs of 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 (Charter Appeals Board) 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.  I have attached a copy of his full testimony.

Your CFO, Mr. Monsun has stated that charter costs are the biggest item in the district’s budget.  It is clear that this district is financially distressed. Students in district schools have had to sit in crumbling buildings and do without basic resources and supports while each year charter expenses consume more and more of the district budget.    If you continue to approve new charters at the expense of your district schools, you send your students the message that their needs are secondary to those of the charter investors.  You cannot continue to deprive the district students for whom you are responsible.  You must not ignore the impact that the expansion of  charter schools have on the public school system in your decisions on these new charter applications.