Thank you to President Wilkerson for representing Philadelphia at the recent press conference in Harrisburg calling for charter reform. At its next meeting, the Board will be voting on 2 new charter applications. APPS members including me have read the application and attachments, attended both hearings, and are now reviewing the CSO report. There are many, many reasons to deny both applications. We don’t need any more charters nor can we afford any more. And despite Health Science charters offensive presentation, they won’t cure poverty either.
There is no need to say much about the first, a new String Theory school. Their CEO has already said that he expects to be rejected and is already preparing for their appeal to the CAB in Harrisburg. So much for their claims to want to serve the local community—they won’t even honor the decision of the local school board.
Why should the Board deny the High School of Health Sciences charter? Too many to go into here, but we can start with the fact that PSP and the founding coalition engaged in fraudulent activities and theft of intellectual property when they gained access to a District high school so they could copy their program. How innovative is that?! But I have to admit we were surprised to see the inadequacy of their application and their difficulty in answering simple questions at the hearing. The CSO includes in their concerns:
§ Inability to demonstrate its potential effectiveness in supporting its health sciences mission
§ career pathways and internships underdeveloped, despite being the centerpiece of the proposed Charter School’s approach
§ no staff budgeted for ambitious internship program until Year 3
§ the Board overstates its community support
§ while it speaks to partnerships with local universities as a critical element of the model, it did not submit Memoranda of Understanding or any other agreements that establish the relationships.
But the most important reason is that we are facing a life and death crisis and the Board must put all available resources into fixing that as soon as possible. As I said at the December 20th hearing:
The bill has now come due for the years of SRC forcing public schools to function under an austerity budget while charter investors and CEOs feed at the public trough. The Doomsday Budget, we now know, was not a metaphor. At least one teacher that we know of is dying because buildings were not inspected for lead and asbestos.
This Board must break the cycle of funding charter schools with bloated administrations while our public schools crumble. The District is not here to serve the Eds and Meds who rather than reach out to the many schools with health sciences programs now want to go into the charter business.
And when the Board makes its decision, Health Sciences and the institutions behind it—Temple, Drexel, Jefferson, Community and Osteopathic—should accept that decision. They should pledge now not to try to overrule the decision made by the local board by trying their luck in Harrisburg.