I’ve been a public observer at the hearings in which Khepera Charter School is appealing the SRC’s non-renewal decision. I have no intention of speaking about the hearing itself, since it’s ongoing. I do want to say, however, that I’ve been very impressed with the preparation and presentation by the District’s Charter School Office and District team about years of concerns re the financing, educational practices and student progress of Khepera. What has been clarified for me is the difficulty the School District has in providing enforceable oversight, especially in a timely fashion, of charter schools and the unwillingness of charter operators to even work with the District.
My concern tonight is this: Since the District and the SRC have the responsibility to oversee the education of all Philadelphia public school students and to ensure that all schools under its mandate are operating in the educational, financial, and legal rights and interests of students, parents and citizens of Philadelphia, how is it that the SRC continues to approve and renew charters and outsource new programs for its own schools to independent contractors when you routinely give up such oversight?
I’ve sat in SRC meetings and observed you wrangle, often unsuccessfully, with charter operators who haven’t met your standards yet stay open while resisting your conditions and ignoring expected dates of compliance. In fact, some members of this SRC have made comments about their frustration with the SRC’s inability to impose conditions and revoke charters. Why haven’t you taken a public position on that problem?
We have any number of charter schools whose renewals are “hanging out there” getting illegal extensions because the charter operators refuse to agree to your conditions based on their lack of success. Worse are the number of charters with open cases, months and years after the SRC has proposed revocation, with no expectation of follow-through by the SRC. I’m talking about Aspira Only, Stetson, and Universal Audenreid High School and others whose charters are in limbo, but who are still operating a full year and a half after your intent to not renew.
District schools, you routinely close or reorganize, sometimes even the same school in successive years, changing principals and even most of the staff, thus de-stabilizing the school’s and students’ ability to have consistency of coordination for success. You make drastic cuts of resources and programs, especially in schools in neighborhoods experiencing the trauma of extreme poverty, then wonder why the school isn’t making better progress.
And this in the face of increasing independent evidence, such as the Research for Action report, that an increased number of charters negatively affects a school district’ spending on students in its own run schools
Why isn’t there more concern for the equity of the students of Philadelphia instead of the rights of charter operators and businesses to whom we outsource? And doesn’t this reflect badly on the failed 16-year experiment of the SRC?