Since each new charter seat adds at the very least $4,800 to the district’s expenses, according to a recent report by the Afton group and charters are funded with public money, this process of charter renewal does require public oversight.
The Charter School Office has recommended most of the 26 schools for renewal “with conditions”. These conditions however, are unclear. What are the conditions? Why does a charter get to negotiate conditions?
While reading over concerns about Belmont Charter School, which did not meet academic organizational, financial or ELL standards, I noticed that only “64% of Belmont teaching staff returned to Belmont 2015-6” which is considered a negative factor in the renewal process. Yet Hite always cleanses 50% of the school teaching staff before the school becomes Turnaround, Renaissance, Priority,etc. Is destabilizing staff considered positive when Hite does it? That’s a question. How can this cleansing of staff be good since all research states that destroying school communities leads to instability in schools?
April marked the anniversary of the 4 charter schools that the Charter Office of the PSD recommended for non-renewal due to academic, financial and operational failures. One year later the 2 Universal Schools continue to operate even though Universal recently, abruptly laid off staff here in Philadelphia due to financial difficulties and completely closed down their schools in Milwaukee after spring break. Is this considered school choice? Did the parents have a say when the charters closed? Do parents ever get a say when they say “No” to charters? The two Aspira schools, Olney and Stetson, continue to operate with CEO Calderon who paid $350,00 to settle a sexual harassment case. The serial sexual predator, Bill O’Reilly, of Fox News had to step down but the CEO of Aspira, who works with children gets to continue as head.
Why do we have a charter renewal process when we ignore its recommendations? Why do we protect poor quality charters at the expense of our public schools?
On April 1, 2017 David Kirp, a professor at Berkeley wrote an article in the N.Y. Times about the achievements of the Union Public School District in Tulsa Oklahoma where more than a third of the students are Latino, many of them English language learners, and 70 percent receive free or reduced-price lunch. With an 89% graduation rate “Union showed what can be achieved when a public school system takes the time to invest in a culture of high expectations, recruit top-flight professionals and develop ties between schools and the community.” Now is time to appreciate and invest in our public schools.
Ilene Blitzstein Poses