Testimony of Karel Kliminik to the BOE, October 22, 2020
I want to commend the Board for allowing more time to consider eliminating Policy 141.
Philadelphians fought to return governance of the School District to local control. The October Action Meeting agenda includes one Item that proposes to eliminate the Board’s oversight of Renaissance charters. Policy 141 states that the District may invoke its own “discretion” to take back control of any Renaissance school. If Policy 141 is deleted, the Board would be ceding control of Renaissance charters to the state. That would be a travesty and a betrayal of the communities whose public schools were taken over by charter companies.
The Renaissance Charter program has been failing for a while. Originally started ten years ago to effect dramatic change at chronically underperforming schools. The school communities at targeted schools were promised that the new operators would operate as a catchment area school and that their children would receive a better education. Charter companies took on management of the neighborhood schools with the understanding that the District could exercise its “discretion” to renew or non-renew the school at the end of its five-year term according to Policy 141 . The Policy also allowed the District to intervene at any time during the Renaissance charter term if necessary.
The Board’s elimination of Policy 141, for the purposes of accountability and oversight, deregulates Renaissance Charters, thereby ceding control back to the state. Any charter school can contest a Board non-renewal vote at the state Charter Appeals Board. Why would the Mayor appoint a Board to take back local control only to cede part of that control back to the state? Neighborhood enrollment has decreased significantly as students are recruited from other neighborhoods.
We urge you to retain Policy 141. We also urge you to reinstate the Speakers Policy that allowed for speakers on both sides of an Item to be heard.