Recently, two economics professors, Holmstrom and Hart won the Nobel Prize for their work on Contract Theory. The Inquirer’s Jeff Guo wrote on October 11 – Hart has shown that govt privatization can lead to lower costs but if govt cannot adequately monitor business, then companies focus on cost cutting and not higher quality. Their economic theories illustrate the weaknesses of the outsourcing the SRC has been pursuing. Instead of putting money into public schools for such things as librarians and smaller class size, the money goes to the charters. The charters are only evaluated every five years by the charter office. This spring, Dawn Lynn Kacer of the charter office, evaluated two charters run by Universal and two schools run by Aspira. Fiscal mismanagement, lack of academic progress, declining graduation rates are just some of the concerns listed in her charter evaluation. Aspira CEO, Alfredo Calderon has settled a sexual harassment case by paying a $350,000 settlement to an employee who complained. The SRC has repeatedly avoided listening to the advice of its own government agency, the charter office, and has avoided instituting the non-renewal process.
Let’s look at some of the cost cutting at charters. The teachers are young and yes enthusiastic but are paid low wages and have no representation when there are problems. Career teachers leave the charter schools and choose to enter the Philadelphia School District even though there has been no new teacher contract for years. It seems that salaries and working conditions are still better in public schools. The Inquirer wrote that charters have almost double the cost of public schools in administration. Scott Gordon of Mastery had a salary of $250,000 in 2013 for less than 20 schools. Compare that to Dr. Hite’s $300,000 for overseeing many more schools. It’s seems that charter management is similar to the Philadelphia orchestra board – it’s important to be competitive in paying its managers; paying the talent on stage seems less important to them. (Peter Dobrin). Dobrin also writes that the notion should put to rest that these Philadelphia musicians are interchangeable with others. Such an ensemble would not be the Philadelphia Orchestra. This holds for schools in which faculty and principals are moved around frequently. Every time a school is designated charter, designated Turnaround, or Renaissance or priority we are also fracturing a school community and a neighborhood community.
As Rich Migliore has written – “The most important aspect for improvement of any school is the building of a collegial, collaborative culture based on trust and the development of a common mission and collective vision. The common denominator of all effective schools is that they have a Great school community.”
When will the SRC follow through with the charter office recommendations for ASPIRA schools and vote to not renew?
Since we all know that collegial school climates make for better schools why do you make your fix for improving schools, moving staff around?