Testimony of Deborah Grill to the Board of Education, September 20, 2018

Last week at the Student Achievement and Support Committee meeting I voiced my concerns regarding the application of MaST to form a Multiple Charter School Organization or MCSO. I want to reiterate some of my concerns. My first concern was that this is the first step in allowing multiple charter organizations to secede from the district and form an independent district.

Since 2000, 50 predominately white, wealthy neighborhoods in different states have seceded from their larger more diverse school district intensifying racial and economic segregation. Given the student racial and economic demographics of several of Philadelphia’s charters and the possibility of a future amendment allowing MCSOs to become their own districts independent of the local school board, I fear that this could become a reality in Pennsylvania.

I believe that the public knows little about this change in the charter school law. Aside from the truncated presentation at last week’s Committee meeting, there has been no presentation to the public on MCSOs, yet you are scheduled to vote on MaST’s application next month.

Before you vote on the application the public needs to be able to understand what an MCSO is and how it differs from a Education Service Provider, which MaST already is, or a Charter Management Organization, as KIPP is. As MaST states in their application, their status as a Education Service Provider already allows them to provide the same economy of services as a MCSO would. So, what are the advantages to the charter and to the District?

The public needs to know how the establishment of a MCSO will affect the District’s oversight. According to the amendment, the School Board will still have authority over the individual charters in the MCSO, but will you have oversight over the MCSO itself? If so, are there limitations to your oversight? Will this adversely affect your ability to close a failing charter within a MCSO, and if so in what way?

To qualify to apply for this status a multiple charter organization must have only one of its schools in the top quartile of Pennsylvania charter schools as rated by the SPP. If the state believes that charter schools are public schools, why is it only comparing them to other charters and not all public schools? An MCSO is permitted to allow students from one of its charters to matriculate to another. Will this allow the organization to move its students around to insure that at least one of its schools is always in the top quartile of charter schools?

These are just some of the questions that need answers. I understand that the Board is still working on assessing the legal ramifications of MCSOs. But, until you are positive that they will not harm the district public schools and the students entrusted to you, you must deny this application.