The Board Should Withdraw Action Item 4: KIPP Amendment Proposal

April 20, 2021

Dear President Wilkerson and Board Members of the Board, 

We are writing in reference to Item 4 on the April 22 2021 Action Item agenda, the amendment request from KIPP charter schools. KIPP is requesting numerous changes, including name, location, grade and enrollment expansion, recruitment area expansion, and the official beginning and end dates for the 5-year term of “KIPP Parkside Charter School”. There are a number of inconsistencies in the Item’s description along with a number of issues that should be addressed before the Board considers this Item. 

First, the District’s webpage lists no KIPP Parkside Charter School.  There is a KIPP West Philadelphia and a KIPP West Philadelphia Preparatory. The address of the first is 5070 Parkside, so we assume that the Item refers to that school. 

The District website lists KIPP West Philadelphia Charter as a K-3 schools. However, the 2017 SRC resolution linked in Item 4 states that this school would not include Grade 3 until the 2021-22 school year.  When was KIPP granted an amendment for grade expansion after its initial approval? 

The SRC resolution also indicates that “KIPP Parkside…shall not open until the 2019-20 school year.”  Why would a school in its second year of operation need to move?  KIPP’s operators told the SRC that the Parkside community needed a KIPP charter school.  Item 4 gives no explanation of why KIPP’s operators changed their mind so quickly or whether they had actually intended to stay in that community. 

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Eyes on the Board of Education: April 22, 2021

by Karel Kilimnik

Despite being in an earth-shattering pandemic rocking the entire world, District leadership, with Board approval, continues to implement corporate practices into the administration of our School District. April brings more administrative requests for contracts instead of a commitment to rebuild its own infrastructure. Board Member Lisa Salley questioned this practice at last month’s action meeting.  Teachers, principals, and other school staff are moved around like pieces on a chessboard instead of consulted for their knowledge and experience in working with students and families. The Board creates Advisory Committees and Councils to mask the Board’s actual quashing of the voices from school communities. The Board has refused to rescind its regressive speaker policies limiting both the number of speakers and restricting everyone to two minutes, down from three. Both student and adult speakers were barred from speaking in February and March.  APPS and UrbEd, represented by the ACLU, has sued the Board in Common Pleas Court. We have sent letters to all City Councilmembers urging them to speak out and to direct the Board, over whom Council has some oversight, to end the silencing of the public. We have also created a petition urging the Board to rescind these speaker procedures.

The Board abolished three of its four committees, significantly lessening the public’s opportunity to be heard. The last time a report was presented by a member of the Parent and Community Advisory Council was almost six months ago. Earlier this month the Council hosted a “Conversation Session”, but the April 22 action meeting agenda has no item for any report from that session. 

Trust in both the District and Board erodes further during the several botched attempts to open school buildings and the delays in posting a dashboard to track covid cases in buildings with students and staff present. The Hite administration failed to disclose to anyone–parents, students, educators–that only students returning to buildings would be taking standardized tests.  Since only 30% of parents opted for hybrid learning, what is the rationale for administering PSSAs to only those students? Who does it benefit other than the powerful testing companies?

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Defenders of Public Education Speak before the BOE, October 22, 2020

Click on the title to read the transcript of the speaker’s testimony.

Teaching and Learning

Board Devaluation of Effective Teaching, Learning, and Health by Rachel Boschen

Signature U.S. Education Initiatives by Barbara McDowell Dowdall

Policy Changes

Do Not Eliminate Renaissance Charter Policy 141 by Deborah Grill

Board Must Not Deregulate Renaissance Charters by Lisa Haver

Changes to Renaissance Charter Policy 141 by Karel Kilimnik

Consequences of Changes to the Wellness Policy and Policy 141 by Robin Lowry

Outsourcing

Board Spending on Contract with Playworks by Jennifer Byiers

Vote NO on Canvas Learning Management Platform by Kristin Luebbert

Against Outsourcing Equity Work by Maddie Luebbert

School Reopening and Charter Renewals

NEBB Certification– Credentials and Reports? [Ventilation] by Diane Payne

What is the Rush to Renew Keystone Charter? by Ilene Poses

Board Should Not Deregulate Renaissance Charters

Deletion of Policy 141 Cedes Power to Harrisburg 

by Lisa Haver

In 2010, the state-controlled School Reform Commission  approved the Renaissance Policy portion of Superintendent Arlene Ackerman’s “Imagine 2014”.  Policy 141 escalated  the privatization of public schools and the diversion of taxpayer funds to privately-managed schools.  The companies awarded contracts to manage  those schools promised to “effect dramatic change”  at “chronically underperforming schools”.  The District, over the past ten years, has spent hundreds of millions on Renaissance schools while getting very little in return. Although the Initiative stipulated  that “Renaissance Schools will be granted greater autonomy in exchange for increased accountability”, there has actually been less accountability, as seen by the repeated renewals of Renaissance charters that fail to meet basic standards, let alone surpass District performance.  

Much of the funding for this method of charter expansion came from a major grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Great Schools Compact Grant, accepted by the SRC in 2011 without public deliberation. The Philadelphia School Partnership advanced its privatization agenda while acting as manager and fiscal agent of the Great Schools Compact Committee, whose meetings were not open to the public.

Click her to read the entire report.