I want to state upfront that I am opposed to the SRC’s approving the opening of any new charter schools in Philadelphia.
Lately, charter schools shout loudly more about their rights than about their responsibilities to the students and the School District. Frankly, they see themselves as separate entities who shouldn’t have to submit to oversight and regulation, unlike all other Philadelphia public schools. However, they wouldn’t be knocking on our door if there wasn’t significant seed money accompanying every student, on the way in that is, because the schools don’t reimburse the District if a student leaves or is “counseled out” mid-year, much less than if the school shuts down prematurely for mismanagement of because they couldn’t make the money they thought they would.
Simply put, because there is a law in Pennsylvania that enables the establishment of charter schools, they act as if it is an entitlement for any company or group to open one, just by asking.
I have lots of rights, but not unencumbered entitlements. I couldn’t have bought my house unless I was able to prove to a bank that I was a good financial risk for them. I had to submit credit and financial reports, employment records, and the like, up the wazoo. I have a right to apply for a mortgage, but a particular bank or mortgage company doesn’t have to grant me one if my business plan doesn’t dovetail with their business plan. I have the right to apply for a job, and the employer has the right to assess my education, employment record and history in making their decision whether or not to hire me. Rights are not entitlements.
But charter operators, especially corporate chain operators, decry any real investigation into or review of their ability to perform or to adhere to regulations that apply to public schools. They claim that charter schools are freed from such intrusions. While the law does refer to allowing charters who operate as innovative laboratories with relaxing certain specific regulation with justification, it doesn’t apply to any ones they choose. That’s reserved for private schools.
The charter applicants in question have a history. Some have had financially risky, if not unethical or illegal operations that pad costs to the District. Many have not met their academic expectations over time and have even declined. Many don’t have sufficiently trained and experienced staff or a cohesive program in the their applications for English Language Learners and special education students of all types; in essence, the more expensive hires and programs.
The SRC has a responsibility to the School District of Philadelphia and its children and families to be good caretakers for its continued viability, both educationally and financially even after your terms are over. I’m tired of hearing that charter schools will appeal or otherwise be approved without conditions by the State. Well, existing ones simply ignore your conditions anyway without penalty.
I urge this SRC to stand up for what’s right for public education; stand up for children, not the business interests of those who are financially or politically connected.
I refer you to the following news articles and comments which I will not read for time, but offeras part of my testimony.
2. Notebook article:
SRC plans vote on seven new charter application today by Greg Windle
3. Accompanying comments to above story:
Does the district need more charters? No.
Do charters outperform district schools? No.
Does the PA charter law make it almost impossible to close charters that are failing both academically and financially? Yes.
For all of those reasons, and for the individual reasons here, taken verbatim from the story, the SRC should vote NO on all applications.