The SRC must vote to deny all seven charter applications next week. There are several reasons why. The district cannot afford to fund any more schools that are not part of the public school system which takes all students. The SRC should not increase the financial burden of the new board.
Despite the best efforts of the CSO, the SRC has ignored its recommendations to vote for non-renewal of failing charters. The SRC allowed Aspira to operate two Renaissance schools well beyond their 5-year terms, despite failure to meet academic standards, despite plummeting test scores and graduation rates, despite improper financial transactions, despite Aspira’s astronomical management fees.
Having read the applications and attended the hearings, I have come to the conclusion that Aspira is actually a real estate company/bank that manages schools on the side. Yet Aspira gets in line for two more schools. The SRC ignored the CSO’s recommendation not to renew Universal Vare and American Paradigm’s Memphis Street Academy. Contrary to Ms.Wilkerson’s statement, the SRC’s action last month does amount to de facto renewals of those two schools.
There are several schools whose renewals were tabled since last year; those schools continue to be funded by the district. They include Boys’ Latin and Belmont, both of whom failed to meet standards in academic, financial and organizational categories.
Charter CEOs and administrators pay themselves an inordinate amount to manage one or two schools. Franklin Towne Charter CEO Joseph Venditti makes $226K to manage two schools. Global Leadership Academy CEO Naomi Booker makes $246K to manage two schools. If Dr. Hite were paid a comparable rate for managing over 200 schools, he would make $26 million. Mastery CEO Scott Gordon makes $262K to manage fourteen schools. Most charters do not publicize the salaries and compensation of their CEOs and administrators. Why? Because they don’t have to. Yet they say they are public schools.
The PA charter law protects bad charters and makes it almost impossible to shut them down.When the SRC approves a charter for a 5-year term, that is meaningless. In the rare instances that the SRC votes to revoke, the charter law mandates a long and expensive legal appeals process. Parents and educators at a public school targeted for closure have no right to appeal. The law does not mandate for a single hearing before a public school is closed down.
Keep in mind that parents at priority schools had to be assured that their school would not be charterized. Parents who were able to vote three years ago voted overwhelmingly not to be charterized. That is a clear indication that there is not a need or want for more charters by parents and school communities. The criteria for placing schools in the SGS was an SPR lower than 15. Mastery Gratz has had ratings of ZERO two years in a row in Overall Achievement. The SRC must stop funneling tax dollars to companies and individuals who are enriching themselves at the expense of public school students.