Testimony of Lynda Rubin to the Board of Education, September 20, 2018

Multiple Charter School Organizations

I implore you to NOT approve Mast or any Multiple Charter School Organization (MCO) requests. Frankly, I believe the MCO process is part of a “foot in the door” philosophy of charter companies and the private money interests behind them to make it easier to be less accountable to public oversight. And I believe their plan is to eventually petition the State to deal with the MCO directly for funding, cutting out the middle man – you, the Board and District – essentially seceding schools from the School District of Philadelphia and your oversight.

Recent actions that Board members have taken and questions you’ve asked give me faith in your desire to advocate for the delivery of equitable public school education using proven educational and socio-economic barometers. Now we need your fortitude.

This MCO model doesn’t yet exist in Pennsylvania. It’s another step toward complete privatization. We don’t know whether public education will survive it. Why the sudden rush?

Consider these issues:

  • Currently charters dispute your right to set conditions on their operations regarding racial equity, educational needs of students, the quality of educational programs and teacher certification and, of course, their finances. They even dispute your right to question the lack of educational progress of the students in their schools. They come in saying they should be given schools because they’ll do a better job, but get downright nasty when you ask them why when they don’t.
  • Charter companies like Aspira have been accused of cross-collateralization of District funds to their non-District authorized schools. But they’re still open.
    Charter chains are in the “business of education”Currently the MCO designation is open for schools from the top tier of charter schools, not all PA schools – a lower bar. And in the future, schools not meeting these standards can be added to the MCO!! Will MCO’s be able to hide failing schools by mixing up the data for students through all the schools (a cross-collateralization of student data, if you will)? They control the data, they control the PR.
  • Will MCO’s be able to pick their students from any area of the city without regard to desegregation standards, economic status or educational support needs? Will parents be increasingly asked for fees for services? Who will monitor them?

There are so many unanswered questions. Have you discussed the pros and cons and possible pitfalls of MCO’s with Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera, his staff or even members of other PA school boards?

You are the stewards for quality public education for all students in Philadelphia. You are responsible for looking down the road to possible consequences of actions you take in any vote, but, especially, in this one. You cannot simply approve this application without stating the exact reasons you think this will actually work for students. You can’t approve this because you’re afraid of charter appeals to the State as was the SRC when they kept approving charter schools to open or be renewed, even though they believed the schools should not exist.

You must exercise your power and responsibility.