Testimony of Lynda Rubin to the Board of Education, September 19, 2019

Charter Renewal Concerns

Tonight you are going to vote on the renewal of 8 charter schools whose operators for the past 2 – 3 years refused to sign their contracts because they objected to your right to add conditions to rectify their schools’ deficiencies. They pulled a power play to see who’d flinch first. And frankly, we’re not sure which of you did. The Charter Office (CSO) now states that they’ve “gone away from the use of conditions”. In fact, the only information given is the very vague, “the schools now meet the District’s guidelines.” What changed? We don’t know and you’re not telling us. Even when Board members at the Student Achievement Committee asked, the CSO simply said, “The CSO is glad to be at this point with Mastery and looks forward to presenting their renewals to the Board.” Some of these schools are even being rewarded with enrollment increases of unknown numbers.

The School District is funded with a limited amount of money. Charter Organizations are businesses that return again and again, to increase their overall footprint and expansion through more students, increases to the number of grades served, and relocation of the schools across town even for kindergarten and 1st grade students. And later these, too, will return for more. It never stops. Every dollar the Board allows to be funneled to charters depletes the number of dollars to be spent on our own Philadelphia students in District run schools to whom we also owe the right to a quality education in schools close to their home, as Dr. Hite is wont to say.

Charter operators use their seemingly unlimited sources of private funding to bash the Board and our schools to the public in the media, and to lobby Harrisburg, via political donations, which for, Michael Karp, was successful enough to get the law changed conveniently applying to just his one school.

Fairness and equity have to run both ways. But charter operators only use those terms for show. They’re in it because there’s money to be made. This week alone, Franklin Towne Charter Organization, whose schools are mostly white and with children of higher income backgrounds, got the Charter Appeals Board to upend your oversight of their application and enrollment process to ensure sufficient diversity in race, income and zip codes served.

Aspira Inc., with their very politically connected attorney, Ken Trujillo, is suing the District again to keep open two of its schools mired in poor academic achievement and financial misdoings. Aspira, Inc.- the organization that the PA Auditor General, in a public press conference, called “the fox guarding the henhouse”.

Please! Stand up to these people! Go public! Make an argument! It’ll cost in legal fees, but it is anyway! And don’t approve any new charters or increases of any kind to existing charters.

Oversee all charters as you do all public schools.