New Charter Applications Hearing: December 20, 2022
by Lynda Rubin
Four charter applicants, all of whom are currently operating charter schools that have failed to meet academic and other standards, have applied to the School District of Philadelphia to operate more. The opening hearing is a pro-forma “public” event in which charter representatives are each given 15 minutes to explain the mission of their proposed schools, with the district providing technical support for the on-screen presentations. Members of the public, on the other hand, are given only two minutes each to state their positions for or against the creation of new charter schools. The Board of Education seems to have gone out of its way to exclude the public from this hearing. They posted the legally required notice, in very small print, in the classified section of the Philadelphia Inquirer, but they posted no notice on the district’s website in any banner on the board’s page nor the charter schools page. APPS members and others with previous knowledge of this process hunted through the website, finally locating a small notice in the board’s calendar. Despite the fact that all board meetings have been held in person for over a year, and that all district schools and offices are open, the board is holding all charter hearings via zoom. Why? In-person meetings have always been considered more informative, since presenters to a live audience are more engaging for all. They also provide an opportunity for people on both sides of the issue to organize and bring a unified message, as members of the Kensington Health Sciences Academy did in 2019. Their actions garnered community support and media attention. When the Board decides arbitrarily not to have fully public hearings, they are using yet another means to impose their speaker suppression policies. Our December 15 letter to the Board asked for fully public hearings: “Consideration for charter applicants and operators should not take precedence over the rights of the community to be fully present and to express their support or opposition to new charter applications as both individuals and organizations.” The Board has not replied.