Testimony of Deborah Grill to the BOE, January 30, 2020

First of all, the Board cannot afford to open another charter school without harming the education of the students in existing District schools. That is why 30 district superintendents and district leaders, including this Board, recently called for a moratorium on new charter schools as well as new seats until the state charter school law is reformed.

According to the revenue projections in its proposed budget and accounting for stranded costs using Research For Action’s formula, the Health Sciences Leadership Charter School or HS2L, would cost the District over $40 million dollars over the five years of its charter.

For that amount of money one would expect much from its planners. As I sat in the January 22nd hearing for this school, I was appalled at the lack of planning by the founding coalition. There were no real plans for any but the first year of the charter and they were inadequate. It seemed as if they felt that they can just make things up as they go along. It was clear that the founders thought so little of the CSO, the Board of Education and, most importantly Philadelphia students, that they did not take the time to put together a thoughtful and complete plan for their education. I was surprised that the Philadelphia School Partnership sponsored such inadequate planning. I suspect that maybe they were motivated more by their enthusiasm to acquire a new tenant for the archdiocesan building vacated by the Cristo Rey Mission School than their concern for the education of Philadelphia’s students.

I couldn’t compute the cost of the Joan Myers Brown Academy from this years application because the budget attachment APPS was sent was only for year one; however, according to last year’s application, this new charter would cost the District over $49 million dollars.

Forty-nine million dollars for what, I believe, is a front for yet another purchase of real estate at the taxpayers’ expense. At the January 22nd application hearing, Mr. Corosaniti admitted that String Theory already has plans to set up a foundation to purchase the proposed school building. String Theory is already in debt to DeMedici I and II, non-profits that it set up to buy its existing school buildings. One yearly financial report indicated it owes those non-profits millions of dollars; the debt could total over $130 million up to year 2043. In order to pay off these loans String Theory needs to open more schools to acquire more taxpayer money. Where does it end?

If it doesn’t default on these existing loans, String Theory Schools, a private company, will have acquired valuable real estate, all at the taxpayers’ expense. If it does default, the DeMedici corporations, indirectly owned by String Theory Board members, will still be able to profit from the sale of the buildings as will the corporations set up to buy future buildings. Either way, the District and its students lose.