Testimony of Lisa Haver to the Board of Education, February 28, 2019

The Board will make a choice tonight on whether it wants to continue the destructive and non-democratic privatization of the SRC when it votes on the 3 new charters that the District does not need and cannot afford. The total cost of these 3 schools—which were not posted in the Action Items as all other vendor contracts are—would be $161 million including stranded costs.

All of the evidence, including from their own CSO reports, shows clearly the money trail from alleged “non-profit” charters directly to their affiliated businesses.

The Board should vote to approve if it wants to:

  • Continue to be complicit in a corrupt system in which the money cannot be followed past the charter school
  • Further enrich the executives of Santilli and Thomson and Sand and Seidell and Omnivest and American Paradigm
  • Send a message to Harrisburg that they will comply with an unfair Charter Law that makes it impossible to hold charters accountable
  • Continue a system in which charters don’t have to account for Special Ed funding or astronomical CEO salaries
  • Give more business to companies whose current charters are underperforming, whose SPRs are in the single digits
  • Perpetuate a system in which teachers and staff have no workplace protections and no job security

The charter law was written to protect investors, not students. That law makes it almost impossible to close failing charters. The way to prevent that is not to approve any charter whose application is a prediction of failure.

These applications are about real estate deals. American Paradigm wants to buy a 13-acre property next to a Superfund site. String Theory seems to be building a pyramid in which a new charter pays off the debt of the others. People for People would buy two properties, one owned by People for People Inc and the other owned by the church whose pastor is also CEO of that organization.

The Board cannot justify approving by saying it wants to avoid legal fees in a possible appeal. The cost for all three of these charters would be $119 million over 5 years. That’s a lot more than any legal fees it would incur.

The Board cannot justify approving with conditions when a charter last year appealed its approval because it didn’t like the conditions.

If the Board is serious about carrying out its mission to represent the students and families of the public school system, then it must vote to deny all 3 applications.

The Board has an obligation to give its reasons—tonight—for approving any of these applications.