I attended last week’s Policy Committee meeting at which the committee was set to consider some changes in its policy on charter amendments. Ten representatives from charter companies and their supporters spoke, vehemently protested the proposed changes, claiming, in the language of free-marketers, that the SRC was trying to over-regulate them. Ms. Wilkerson responded that after hearing from them, the SRC would “slow down” the process. So I got to witness the SRC actually responding to speakers. But when Ms. Wilkerson also invited the charter representatives to meet with members of the SRC, I was reminded that many of those same representatives had already met with high-ranking district representative last year. The district held secret meetings with charter representatives for six months and never told anyone or issued a report. Only because APPS filed a RTK request, and an appeal after the district refused to reveal the business of those meetings, has any member of the public been able to see who attended and what was discussed. So if the SRC intends to hold even more meetings so that charter investors can make their wishes known, those must be public meetings with an opportunity for the public to be heard.
Because the SRC is unelected and unaccountable, they have postponed a decision on 7 charter renewals since last year, including the 2 Aspira schools on the agenda tonight. We sent a letter to the SRC Monday, explaining again that it is a violation of the PA Sunshine Act to take a vote on any matter without reading the full text of the resolution into the record—if it had not already posted it—and giving the public the opportunity to speak on it. In addition, it is a falsification of the public record to state in the minutes that the SRC voted on a resolution which was written AFTER the meeting, which the SRC now does on a regular basis.
The fact that the SRC has continued to fund the Aspira schools (and the Universal schools also recommended for non-renewal) for two years without formal renewal shows how much of a scam the entire Renaissance program is. It has been a colossal waste of money. If it were a success, we would have had numerous reports from the Superintendent citing data that these schools have been “turned around”. But the data shows without question that they have not. If the Renaissance schools actually improved the schools, why would they be renewed with conditions? Why would they be allowed to skate if they only “approached” the standard? Haven’t we been told for years that they are the ones setting the standard?
I have an entire folder here with news stories about the fraudulent activities of the board of Aspira, the calls from elected officials to investigate their financial improprieties, their misuse of taxpayer funds, and of course, the #metoo stories about the settlements resulting from the sexual harassment of Aspira CEO Alfredo Calderone. Commissioner Green told report Ryan Briggs in August 2016 , in reference to Aspira’s numerous fianancial and governance violations, “ I imagine if they can’t resolve that within 30 days, I would consider voting not to renew.”
District parent Anna Perng testified in City Council two days ago: “Our school district has become an ATM for privatizers, big law firms, and corporate interests. … its existence has created a vacuum for accountability.” The SRC’s abdication of responsibility in revoking the charters of failing Renaissance schools is just more evidence of that.