I was watching the movie The Verdict last night in which Paul Newman plays a lawyer. In his summation, he tells the jury that they are the law. Not the lawyers or the judge or the building. They will make the final decision, so they are the law.
This Board is the law here. Not the Harrisburg politicians or the Charter Appeal Board or the Mayor or the Governor. The people on the Board must decide whether it will continue the destructive policies of the SRC or will represent their constituents as government officials—that is, all of the stakeholders of the District.
Will you continue to renew charter schools that fail to meet academic standards? Will you renew schools whose SPRs are in single digits and who cannot meet or exceed the performance of district schools?
Will you allow charter managers to thumb their nose at you by refusing to follow conditions? Will you allow them to continue to set up barriers to enrollment to children they don’t want to take? Will you allow them to continue to expel students without providing them their due process rights?
Will you allow charter CEOs to pay themselves astronomical salaries without asking them why? Will you ask the CEO of the West Philadelphia charter, whose board pays her more than Dr. Hite to run one school, how that is ethical? The same CEO who is now demanding to get in front of the line so her school, whose data does not show evidence of a high-quality charter, can add a high school?
Because when you do, as the law here, you send a message that it’s ok for charter schools to provide an inadequate education to their students. That it’s ok for them to say they provide choice when the choice actually rests with them. That it’s ok for them to divert public money to private real estate investors and consultants and law firms.
President Wilkerson and Dr. Hite said in their Inquirer commentary today: The Commonwealth has an ethical and moral responsibility to its public school students to ensure charter schools are held to the same state academic standards as District schools.
The Board has that same ethical and moral responsibility. You can’t demand that from others if you don’t practice it here. Starting today.