Lisa Haver testimony before the SRC – February 8, 2017

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APPS members have attended all of the charter application hearings and have written analyses of the charter applications. In addition to the fact that none of these applicants would contribute anything to the community, there are many reasons why the SRC, as the body which is responsible for keeping Philadelphia’s public school system a viable and thriving one, must not approve any new charters:

1) As others have and will testify here today, it is not correct that the district cannot consider the financial health of the district. It is obligated to consider this. CFO Uri Monsun has stressed that charters are the single biggest item in the district’s budget.

2) Charters are not required to make a commitment to the community to fulfill their 5-year term. The unconscionable abandonment by Young Scholars of not one but two schools, which had already been struggling when handed the keys by the SRC, has had devastating consequences for the community—but not for Young Scholars. The parents and students of Kenderton, who have testified here, are left to pick up the pieces. This is just one example.

3) We continue to be impressed by the CSO’s thoroughness in their evaluations and their laser focus in questioning in the hearings. But the SRC knows that it is not possible for that severely understaffed office to conduct meaningful oversight of over 85 schools, which taken as one entity, would be the second largest district in the state.

4) Too many neighborhood schools are fighting off unfair competition from new charters, including some of the schools now considered “failing” and targeted for some kind of Priority school overhaul. Many of them are struggling with lack of support staff, teacher vacancies and overcrowded classrooms. None of these applicants are proposing that they have 33 students in a class. At least one of the applicants was questioned about how much they intended to spend on administration in contrast to funding for teachers.

5) The data, including district data, shows that charters do not perform better than public schools. Aspira and Universal are just two examples. KIPP presently has two schools in the intervene category.

For all of these reasons, and the many reasons mentioned by other speakers here today, the SRC must not approve any more charters. We simply cannot afford them.