Testimony of Lynda Rubin to the BOE, September 17, 2020

Opposition to Renaissance Policy Changes

I was one of the many speakers who could not speak at the last Policy Committee due to the number of people who signed up on this topic.The fact that so many people were denied access to speak indicates a real concern that the Board is making changes for underlying and unstated reasons with which the public takes issue.

In the original Policy 141, there was not only a definition of Renaissance schools, there were also definitions of Innovation, Contract and regular Charter schools along with individual accountability descriptions. Only one brief paragraph about Renaissance schools is transferred over to the new 401. The terms Innovation and Contract schools, along with their descriptions do not exist in the new 400, 401 or Administrative Procedures. The new 401 changes the definition of Mission, as in “The explicit mission” changed to “The explicit aims, values,”.  Doesn’t sound like much, but if the change doesn’t make a change, why change it?

Whenever words are changed in legal documents, it’s for a purpose. When descriptions of types of schools, processes, etc. are changed or deleted, there’s a purpose.

For what purpose could these and other changes be made? Since there have been numerous calls to eliminate the failed and obscenely expensive Renaissance School program, I wonder why its description has been so streamlined.

Words matter; lack or change of words matter. Could it be that it’s a nod to your private negotiations on several matters including renewal agreements and their own rating system with PSP, Mastery, and other Renaissance Charter operators, that you want to eventually homogenize and codify the Renaissance Charter Schools into regular charter schools? To do so would drastically affect the scope and operations and, indeed, the fate of the Philadelphia School District, especially neighborhood schools. Is this to eventually morph the Renaissance School designation to regular charter status? Is this the precursor to these charter operators being able to apply to the State for the new MCSO or (Multiple Charter School Organization) status with the State asking fewer questions about what kind of schools they are?

Unfortunately, Board members’ comments tonight indicate just that. This is a move to change the Ren Charter status to regular charter without admitting it to the public.

When are you going to start championing our schools and decide to not spend money on expensive, outside companies or making charter operators happy? Public schools cannot be an afterthought.

And, I refuse to cede a neighborhood to charters. Maybe that’s what businesses do, but not public education.