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Philadelphia’s Public Charter Schools Stand United

A victory today for Philadelphia public charter schools! We were able to persuade the SRC to table Policy 406, which restricts our ability to serve children.

Below is the letter we signed and presented to members of the SRC policy committee at a hearing this morning. Several charter leaders attended and our CEO Scott Gordon addressed the panel.

 

Philadelphia Public Charter Schools

Stand United in Opposition to School District Policy 406

The SRC’s proposed charter amendment usurps charter schools independence, violates charter law, and weighs charter schools down with unnecessary bureaucracy, thus restricting our ability to serve children.

 

HERE’S HOW:

  1. Usurps Charter Schools Independence and Cripples Innovation
    • SRC would approve changes to educational programs. Right now, according to Pennsylvania state law, the Charter School Board makes those decisions. This amendment would take that power away from the Charter School’s Board of Directors. This is a direct attack on the autonomy of charter schools and a violation of the law. This means that if a school wants to change its Math curriculum or purchase new Science textbooks it would need SRC approval! These are clear examples of the District’s overreach into areas that are fundamental to a charter school’s independence and ability to innovate. The autonomy to make decisions about academic curriculum and program are some of the essential elements for charters and key to their
    • Restrict requests for charter amendments. The new policy limits charters to only applying for certain amendments once a year, and in some cases every five years. This would prevent many necessary changes from being made nimbly that impact student achievement and/or fiscal sustainability over time. For example, a charter would only be able to request a grade change every five

2.     Is Against PA Charter Law

  • Illegally limits enrollment increases. The new policy restricts a charter to only requesting the lesser of 100 new seats or a 10% increase on current enrollment. This is in direct conflict with the General Assembly and multiple court rulings prohibiting the imposition of caps on charter enrollment. This limit on grade expansion most likely will eliminate the possibility of grade expansion since the numbers will not allow for
  • Giving authority to the SRC that violate state law. Examples of this are the requirement that changes to educational programs be approved by the SRC. Another is that the financial impact on the District be considered in the amendment criteria. This contradicts the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania which states that the District’s financial considerations should not be a basis upon which a Charter application should be evaluated for two reasons: (1) financial criteria are directly contradictory to the intent of Charter School law and (2) if the District is allowed to make decisions regarding Charter School applications based on its own financial considerations, no Charter applications would ever be granted. The same reasoning applies to Charter amendment requests. The inclusion of the District’s financial considerations as a criterion for amendment could provide a blanket reason for the District to routinely deny requests for enrollment expansion or change in grade level

 

3.     Creates Red Tape and Bureaucratic Barriers

  • Must meet new academic standard for performance for any charter change. Many of these changes are not academic in nature and it seems illogical that academic criteria would be required for things such as a name change or CMO/EMO
  • Prevent positive changes. Aspects of this policy could actually prevent charter schools from making needed changes to improve academic performance, for example:
    • A curriculum change intended to improve lagging math outcomes for students would take a full year to be approved by the School District prior to allowing a charter to implement the change. A charter board could not respond to student performance issues by making needed changes in real
    • If the CMO is failing the charter school or found to be negligent in their responsibilities, the school would need to keep a failing CMO in place for a year until a change is approved by the School District – possibly leading to both academic and fiscal issues for the
  • Makes facility change more difficult. A school would be limited to an annual request and must meet new academic targets and prove that a facility move would result in lower costs even though typically first year costs will increase. The District would also need to assess and determine “community impact” without including the criteria for this proposal in the policy. The proposed policy does not take into consideration that a declining facility takes academic dollars away from academic performance and staff salaries, nor does it contemplate that charter schools may have already entered into an agreement to renovate or purchase a new building prior to the implementation of the new
  • Anticipated delays. Given that the Charter Office is currently under-resourced and unable to fulfill its current functions of accountability and renewals in a timely fashion it is unrealistic to think that they would be able to take on more tasks

4.   No Input from Charter Schools or Parents

  • In spite of the fact that 40% of all public school students attend public charter schools, no charter schools and no charter parents were consulted on this amendment that would have dire consequences for thousands of Philadelphia
  • Several of the actual proposals within the policy, such as a request to expand enrollment, do not consider the demand of the community for more

WHAT DO WE WANT? We want the SRC to take Policy 406 off the table.  We request that the School District take the time to create a policy review committee composed of members of the charter school community and seek to create a policy that eliminates overreach on the part of the District on charter school autonomy to operate while creating rational standards for amendments to existing charters that benefit students and their families, while respecting charter law.

 

Signed on December 5, 2017 by:

Belmont Charter School

Boys Latin of Philadelphia Charter School

Eastern University Academy Charter School

Franklin Towne Charter Elementary School

Franklin Towne Charter High School

Frederick Douglass Mastery Charter School

Freire Charter School

Global Leadership Academy Charter School

Global Leadership Academy Charter School Southwest at Huey

Inquiry Charter School

KIPP DuBois Charter School

KIPP Philadelphia Charter School

KIPP West Philadelphia Charter School

KIPP West Philadelphia Preparatory Charter School

Lindley Academy Charter School at Birney

Mariana Bracetti Academy Charter School

MaST Community Charter School

MaST Community Charter School II

Mastery Charter High School Lenfest Campus

Mastery Charter School-Cleveland Elementary

Mastery Charter School- Francis D. Pastorius Elementary

Mastery Charter Schools- Hardy Williams

Mastery Charter School- John Wister Elementary

Mastery Charter School- Clymer Elementary

Mastery Charter School- Gratz Campus

Mastery Charter School- Harrity Campus

Mastery Charter School- Mann Campus

Mastery Charter School- Pickett Campus

Mastery Charter School- Shoemaker Campus

Mastery Charter School- Smedley Campus

Mastery Charter School- Thomas Campus

Math Civics and Sciences Charter School

New Foundations Charter School

Northwood Academy Charter School

Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools

Philadelphia Academy Charter School

Philadelphia Charters for Excellence

Philadelphia Montessori Charter School

Russell Byers Charter School

Tacony Academy Charter School

TECH Freire Charter School

Wissahickon Charter School

Young Scholars Charter School