Archives for category: Philadelphia

Philadelphia has hired a search service to hire 5,000 substitutes.

“Whether you’re a recent college graduate looking to work your way into a full-time teaching position, a retired teacher interested in getting back in the classroom, or someone looking to make a positive contribution to the development of children, Source4Teachers has a place for you. We offer health insurance and other benefits including a 401(k) plan and opportnities for various bonuses. Plus, working as a substitute is extremely flexible –how frequently, when and where you work is entirely up to you,” the SubinPhilly.com website says.”

This could happen only in a district that doesn’t care about education or children. This could happen only in a district that serves poor Black and Hispanic children. It would never happen in a ritzy white suburb.

The superintendents of the Philadelphia public schools, William Hite, is a graduate of the unaccredited Broad Superintendents Academy. The BSA is a major proponent of charter schools, and a major critic of public schools, which it considers to be failing, failing, failing.

 

Superintendent Hite has filled up the top administrative jobs of the public school system with veterans of the charter school movement.

 

Guess that is what he learned as a Broadie.

This is a terrific interview with Helen Gym, a public school activist who just won a seat on the Philadelphia City Council.

The state took control Philadelphia public schools in 2001, and the Governor appoints a majority of the members of the School Reform Commission. A majority of voters endorsed a non-binding resolution to restore democratic control to the district. In addition, a pro-public schools candidate was elected Mayor, defeating a heavily funded corporate reformster candidate.

Helen Gym has been a tireless and fearless advocate for public schools. In this interview, she offers sound advice about fighting for your community’s schools.

She said:

“Philadelphia is a place where corporate education reform has done so much damage. No one is a bigger symbol of that damage than the hedge fund billionaires behind the Susquehanna Group. They poured nearly $7 million into a municipal election, dwarfing any amount of money coming from elsewhere. As I said in a press conference, these were three billionaires looking to destroy public education in a city they would never live in and hurting children they would never know. That about sums it up, and it’s why the public resoundingly rejected them and their narrow abusive agenda that had done so much harm not just to children but to entire neighborhoods and communities…..

“For years, we’ve been subjected to relentless rhetoric that people don’t want to invest in public institutions anymore, that their schools have failed and their teachers have failed, and that school choice was the only option people had – and they ought to be grateful to those who provided it. But as I campaigned around the city, I was amazed at how many communities had really soured on that idea. Especially in the neighborhoods that suffered from the most disinvestment, people really understand just how important their public institutions and their public spaces are. I mean, you can’t be electing officials who want to shut down our schools, take away services from communities and cut taxes on the wealthy and call that working in the public interest. We had gone so far to that extreme that none of this corporate education reform message was resonating any more. It felt hollow, empty and defeatist. I also think that a lot of people now really understand that the problem isn’t so much that our public institutions have failed, but that we’re competing with other interests that are sucking away our ability to invest in them….

“Gym: The biggest lesson is that this was work that was built up over years. There’s no short cut. It wasn’t like some amazing superstar suddenly burst onto the scene. We’re all just pretty ordinary people who’ve learned to work together, and figured out how to build a bigger, broader movement over time. I think that’s the lesson that other communities can learn from. That when your work has integrity over time, and you work collaboratively, the broader community can see it come to fruition. I think the other lesson here is about the difference between political power and a grassroots movement. Political power was not the first thing we sought. Instead, we were really trying to build a stronger base to highlight the voices of different communities across the city. That’s how you change things, when a collective movement builds and earns political power rather than just grasps for it…..

“This election sent a loud and clear message: the place to start is investment in public institutions, and real partnerships with community organizations and parents and educators. Reforming our institutions takes collaboration and solutions rooted in vision and possibility, not narratives of failure. It’s a lesson that hope always wins the day.”

Ken Derstine is a blogger in Philadelphia:

Divide and Conquer: The Philadelphia Story

By Ken Derstine

Everyone concerned about corporate education reform and the influence of various venture “philanthropists” in their drive to privatize public schools should be following the Democratic primary on May 19th for the next mayor of Philadelphia. Neoliberal and conservative financiers, in a drive to make Philadelphia public schools like the New Orleans school system, are investing millions of dollars in the mayoral race.

Most prominent is the Susquehanna Investment Group (SIG) that is funding state Senator Anthony Williams. SIG made an initial investment of $250,000 for television ads at the beginning of his campaign. In the final weeks of the campaign, they have boosted their funding to $800,000 per week.

The Susquehanna Investment Group makes no bones that their goal is the privatization of public schools in Philadelphia. For a full description of SIG see #Hedgepapers No. 11 – High Frequency Hucksters

The other major contender in the Philadelphia mayoral election is Democratic City Councilman James Kenney. Kenney has no problem with the expansion of charters as long as the state reimburses for their cost.

Williams backers, beside the outside financial interests investing millions in Williams campaign, include Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity, and union leadership of sheet metal workers, laborers, operating engineers, and transit workers.

Kenney has been endorsed by much of the Democratic Party machine in Philadelphia, the Philadelphia local AFL-CIO leadership, including the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and a carpenters union, State Representative Dwight Evans and a coalition of African American leaders.

The splintering of Philadelphia’s labor movement is in marked contrast to 1973, when the PFT was on strike for 7 ½ weeks, the teachers union leadership and dozens of PFT members were jailed for contempt of court without bail, but the strike ended with a victory for the teachers as the city labor movement was preparing a general strike in support of the teachers.

On April 30th, Philadelphia political activist Helen Gym who is running on the Democratic ticket for a City Council-at-Large seat, criticized the Susquehanna billionaires for trying to buy Philadelphia’s election. Gym was viciously attacked at an April 30th rally by Antony Williams for “duplicity” and a personal attack was made on some of her supporters. Williams was joined in the attack by School Reform Commission member Bill Green. Green is a former Democratic City Councilman who was appointed by former Governor Corbett to the SRC. Rather than administer the beleaguered School District, he is taking sides in the mayoral election to promote his privatization agenda and his attack on Philadelphia teachers. See Bill Green’s Education Agenda: Hidden in Plan Sight | Defend Public Education

On May 3rd, Williams was endorsed by the Editorial Board of the Philadelphia Inquirer. They said the deciding factor was Kenney’s union support. Critics of the endorsement pointed out that the Inquirer is owned by Gerry Lenfest who is strongly pro-charter, a supporter of Teach for America, and corporate education reform as a whole. Reports are that the endorsement caused a lot of dissension on the staff at the Inquirer. Asked if she was concerned, Williams campaign spokeswomen Barbara Grant said in a statement “that Kenney and his allies will learn that both the Inquirer editorial board and voters don’t think that Kenney’s union supporters “need a seat in the mayor’s office.”

Both State Senator Williams and State Representative Evans support the Education Improvement Tax Credit Program. This program is a form of voucher that gives businesses a tax credit for providing scholarships for students to attend private or parochial schools in lieu of paying state taxes that would be going to public schools. This method of circumventing the Pennsylvania Constitutional mandate which says government cannot fund sectarian schools was pioneered by Florida Governor Jeb Bush after vouchers were declared unconstitutional by the Florida Supreme Court. Funding for Florida’s Corporate Income Tax Credit Scholarships program has risen dramatically since its inceptions.

Both Williams and Evans are on the board of the Black Alliance for Education Options. Its founder, former civil rights activist Howard Fuller, has been a promoter of vouchers and charters in low-income communities since August 24, 2000. Among its funders are the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Institute for the Transformation of Learning, and the Walton Family Foundation.

On February 5, 2015, Fuller participated on a panel at the right-wing American Enterprise Institute during which he said, “We (BAEO) wouldn’t exist without John Walton and this is one of the reasons I love that man.” Fuller is indifferent to the fact that the money given to BAEO by the Walton Foundation comes from the low-wage exploitation of Walmart workers!

The state takeover of the Philadelphia School District in 2001 grew out of a civil rights lawsuit in1998 in which the city of Philadelphia charged that Pennsylvania funding practices discriminated against non-white students. In retaliation, the legislature passed Act 46 that set up a School Reform Commission that eventually took over the School District in 2001. The city withdrew the lawsuit when it was given two of the five seats on the SRC. The architect of the Act 46 was Philadelphia Representative Dwight Evans who was chair of the House Appropriations Committee.

Both PA Representative Dwight Evans and PA Senator Anthony Williams are on the board of the Black Alliance for Education Options. On the BAEO website it says:

“In Pennsylvania, the support and leadership of BAEO board members Representative Dwight Evans and Senator Anthony Williams were crucial to the creation, protection, and expansion of the tax credit and charter programs. They were also instrumental in passing the law that led to the state takeover of the School District of Philadelphia, which has led to an increase in quality educational options for poor families.”

Like Williams, Evans has tried to start charters schools while he voted on education legislation as a Philadelphia Representative in Harrisburg. In 2011 he came into conflict with Broad Foundation board member Philadelphia Superintendent Arlene Ackerman over which charter company should take ownership of Martin Luther King High School. The clash led to a chain of events that lead to Ackerman’s resignation as Superintendent.

Early this year a pro-charter, anti-public school political organization descended on Philadelphia. Philly School Choice has appeared to counter-protest rallies of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and to organize parents with children in charter schools to speak at SRC meetings in support of charter expansion. It does not reveal its funding sources, but it’s leader, Bob Bowden, is well known in right-wing libertarian, corporate privatization circles.

On August 30, 2014 Bob Bowden interviewed Senator Anthony Williams about his agenda. State Senator Anthony Williams Discusses School Choice with Bob Bowden | Change the Game (video)

Many of the American civil rights leaders of the ‘60’s, like Howard Fuller, have followed in the footsteps of Booker T. Washington, and made their peace with the 1%. They promote a corporate education reform that undermines the civil rights gains of the ‘60’s. National leadership of groups like the National Urban League and NAACP have sold out for a price to the 1% and joined the promotion of the privatization of public schools. The Broad Foundation has trained urban superintendents, many from minority communities, to turn urban school districts over to private interests. (See “Who is Eli Broad and why is he trying to destroy public education?”)

The National Urban League has received $5,286,017 from Gates over the last few years.

Gates Foundation Awarded Grants

Put other organizations, like BAEO, NAACP, AFT, etc., in the search window to see what they have received from the Gates Foundation.

The infusion of corporate and hedge fund money into all levels of government for the purpose of privatizing public education is a grave danger to democratic rights in the United States. Recently twenty-five civil rights groups joined Arne Duncan and endorsed the continuation of standardized testing in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Act (ESEA). This is a direct response to the burgeoning Opt Out movement where parents are saying they do not want their children to be used in the national social experiment being undertaken by corporate education reform.

As part of her collaboration with corporate education reform, Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers has endorsed the call for annual testing in ESEA. On a panel at the recent conference of the Network for Public Education, Weingarten said of standardized testing (47:04 in the video):

“We are fighting for a reset to get rid of high stakes. The civil rights community and the President of the United States of America is fighting very hard to have annual tests for one purpose. They have seen in states for years that if they didn’t have them that states would ignore children. They agree with us now that they have been misused, but they fought very hard in the last few months to actually have annual tests as opposed to grade span (in ESEA).”

A few days after the NPE conference, Weingarten spoke in support of Common Core at event sponsored by supporters of Common Core.

It is not necessary to torture children with standardized testing in order to see if a school needs funding. All you need to do is look at the income level of families in a school and you will know what funding is needed to meet the needs of students at that school. In addition to testing company profits, standardized testing is used by corporate education reformers to decide which public schoolsshould be “turned around” to charters to advance a privatization agenda.

Based on the experience of the oppressive conditions in many urban areas, the explosion in Baltimore against police repression to those fighting the oppression is causing many youth to reject the social and political forms that have been holding them down. The fragmentation of the Democratic Party in Philadelphia is a harbinger of great changes coming nationally. Nature abhors a vacuum. A political party with a program that meets the needs of the 99% needs to be built out of the struggles on which the youth have embarked so we do not descend into a social disaster.

The Network for Public Education is very pleased to endorse Helen Gym for City Council in Philadelphia. Helen is a fighter for public education and for social justice. Her passionate and eloquent voice will make a difference when decisions are made. Please send her whatever you can. She has been endorsed by the Philadelphia Inquirer, the city’s major newspaper.

 

 

The Network for Education is proud to join the growing list of organizations endorsing Helen Gym in the Primary Election for a City Council At-Large seat in the city of Philadelphia.

 

NPE President Diane Ravitch has lauded Helen as a hero of public education and an inspiration for us all. When asked about Helen’s candidacy, Diane said she is “a great advocate for children and education. Philadelphia needs her eloquent voice on the City Council.”

 

Helen is the mother of three Philadelphia public school students, a former public school teacher, and a fierce advocate for public education in Philadelphia and beyond. She has been a dedicated community activist for two decades; her work has touched on issues regarding taxation, civil rights, criminal justice, jobs, labor, and neighborhood development. She is a founding member of Parents Across America, and the co-founder of Parents United for Public Education, a nationally recognized group of public school parents advancing broad causes for social justice in the Philadelphia public schools. Helen also serves on the editorial board of Rethinking Schools, a social justice education journal.

 

Philadelphia principal Chris Lehmann, founder of the renowned Science Leadership Academy, said, “Helen Gym has been a champion for the children and the teachers of Philadelphia. She is a tireless advocate who will work to improve public education in our city, and therefore, help Philadelphia become the city we all know it can be.”

 

Not only has she been a fearless advocate for fair funding, bringing national attention to the dire underfunding situation in Philadelphia, she has developed a plan to ensure that going forward the city’s schools have the funds they need without over burdening homeowners. Please read more about her Fair-Share Plan, which will ensure that all Philadelphia students have access to the services such as nurses, counselors, libraries, music, and the arts.

 

Helen also supports less testing in our schools stating, “Tests should be one measure which informs practice. It should not be used as a major measure to evaluate teachers, determine pay, close schools or deny children a diploma or access to a quality education.”

 

And true to form, Helen has backed up her belief with action. When the city recently estimated that only 22% of students would graduate, Helen called for the end of the state’s Keystone exams, which are end of course exams used as a graduation requirement. Helen said, “The School District’s projection of a 22 percent graduation rate when the state and city have failed to adequately meet schools’ needs is an outrage and threatens the future of hundreds of thousands of students in this city.” She added, “No one wins with a testing system destined for failure.”

 

You can read more about Helen’s education policy positions here.

 

Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers said, “For Philadelphia’s educators, the choice to endorse Helen Gym for City Council At Large was an easy one. No other candidate possesses Helen’s combination of passion for quality public schools and deep knowledge of education issues.”

 

We urge you to do what you can to ensure Helen is elected to be the champion the children and teachers of Philadelphia so desperately need. Please visit her websiteto donate to her campaign and help spread the word about her candidacy.

 

 

National Charter School Week is May 3-9. The teachers at Olney Charter High School voted to form a union affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers. That is a nice way to celebrate and to make sure that teachers have good working conditions. According to the AFT press release, this is the 120th charter school to go union. Only 5,880 to go.

 

 
Olney Charter Teachers Vote Overwhelmingly to Join Teachers Union

 

Teachers Cite Need for a Voice to Advocate for Students and Their Profession at
Philadelphia High School that’s Part of National ASPIRA Charter Chain

 

PHILADELPHIA—Last night, teachers and support staff at Olney Charter High School in Philadelphia voted overwhelmingly to form a union. They voted by a near three-to-one margin to join with the Philadelphia Alliance of Charter School Employees to gain a voice in how classrooms are resourced and school decisions are made. They also sought greater input into teacher evaluations and professional development.

 

Olney Charter High School (located on West Duncannon Ave.) is one of five charters run by ASPIRA Inc. of Pennsylvania within the Philadelphia School District. It was carved out of the public system following the state takeover of public city schools in 2001, which handed control of public schools to private operators under a corporate education reform model.

 

ASPIRA Inc. of Pennsylvania is an affiliate of the national ASPIRA Association, a nonprofit organization focused on education for Latino and other underserved youth. ASPIRA Association operates in eight states and Puerto Rico.

 

As Olney teachers and staff began organizing, management hired a union-avoidance firm, National Consultants Associated, which has a history of questionable ties to organized crime and individuals charged with federal corruption and racketeering. In the days leading up to the union vote, National Consultants Associated held mandatory anti-union meetings, costing parents face time with teachers, students hours of instruction during annual exam prep, and untold dollars that could have been put to use in classrooms.

 

The victory for teachers and support staff at Olney is the latest in a string of successful organizing efforts. Teachers at charter schools across the country increasingly are uniting to challenge the conditions that lead to incredibly high turnover in their schools and to improve education for their students. Often, in spite of aggressive anti-union tactics from their employers, teachers vote to join together in a union when given the choice.

 

“Teachers at charter schools want what other teachers want: respect for the job they do and a real voice in their schools,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the 1.6-million member American Federation of Teachers. “Increasingly, they see how joining a union of professionals is the vehicle to do that. That’s what today’s overwhelming vote was about.”

 

A total of 172 teachers and support staff are now represented by the union and will soon begin negotiating a first collective bargaining agreement. They also are calling for organizing and collective bargaining rights for teachers and staff at all ASPIRA Inc. schools. On May 12, teachers and staff at John B. Stetson Charter School, another ASPIRA school, filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board requesting a union vote. The Board has yet to rule on the request.

 

“We look forward to forging a new relationship with ASPIRA of Pennsylvania,” said Ted Kirsch, president of AFT Pennsylvania and an AFT vice president. “By opening its planning and decision-making process to teachers, staff and parents, ASPIRA has an opportunity to make its schools a model for innovation and collaboration in K-12 charter schools.”

 

The AFT represents teachers and support staff in more than 120 public charter schools in 12 states.

According to news reports, Governor Tom Wolf will replace Bill Green, chairman of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission, with fellow member of the commission, Marjorie Neff.

 

Governor Wolf had asked the Commission not to approve any new charter schools because of the city’s dire financial situation, but it approved five new charters. Neff was the only commissioner to oppose all five charters. She is a former principal of a district high school.

 

Green says he will challenge his removal in court.

Thanks to the Keystone State Education Coalition for sending daily updates, invluding these.

Governor Wolf complained that Philadelphia public schools could not afford the loss of revenue to charters. The public schools have an $80 million deficit, and more charters will increase rhe deficit. Charters complained because they wanted more approvals.

SRC feels heat for adding five charters

KRISTEN A. GRAHAM, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Thursday, February 19, 2015, 7:59 PM POSTED: Thursday, February 19, 2015, 5:31 PM

The School Reform Commission continued to take heat Thursday for its decision to approve five new charter schools, with critics from both sides railing against the action. Mark Gleason, executive director of Philadelphia School Partnership, said he was “deeply disappointed” that the SRC approved only 2,684 seats Wednesday, rejecting proposals by qualified schools.

PSP, a well-funded, controversial nonprofit dedicated to expanding strong schools, had offered $25 million to help defray new-charter costs, but for now, that money is off the table, Gleason said. Advocates of wide charter expansion cited pent-up demand for strong charters, with thousands on waiting lists for the schools, which are paid for with public dollars and run by independent boards but authorized by the Philadelphia School District. Others, including Gov. Wolf and the teachers union, say that any new charter seat strips children of needed resources in the already financially desperate district.

http://www.philly.com/philly/education/20150220_SRC_feels_heat_for_adding_five_charters.html#67IgxL85B3MRbfB5.99

SRC blasted from both sides on charter vote

SOLOMON LEACH, DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER LEACHS@PHILLYNEWS.COM, 215-854-5903 POSTED: Friday, February 20, 2015, 12:16 AM

ELECTED OFFICIALS and education reformers yesterday voiced frustration with the School Reform Commission’s decision to approve five of 39 charter applications.

The commission voted during a raucous meeting Wednesday to grant charters to Independence, MaST Community, KIPP, Mastery and Freire. The approved applicants are the first stand-alone charters granted in the city since 2007 and will provide an additional 2,684 seats by 2019.

Despite the measured approach, those on both sides of the issue were unhappy with the outcome.

http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20150220_SRC_blasted_from_both_sides_on_charter_vote.html#6THjO0RWyR9hZD64.99

Gov. Wolf decries Philadelphia’s charter school expansion

York Dispatch by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS POSTED: 02/19/2015 01:23:42 PM EST

PHILADELPHIA – Philadelphia’s School Reform Commission has approved just five of 39 new charter school applications, but Gov. Tom Wolf and a teachers’ union say any new charters will be a financial strain on the city’s public school system. Wolf issued a statement after Thursday’s vote saying the district, which projects an $80 million budget deficit next school year, can’t responsibly handle the approval of new charter schools.

The commission granted conditional three-year charters to: Independence Charter School West, KIPP Dubois, MaST Community, Mastery and Tech Freire.

http://www.yorkdispatch.com/breaking/ci_27558115/gov-wolf-decries-philadelphias-charter-school-expansion

Mike Turzai “Very Disappointed” Philadelphia SRC Only Approved 5 New Charters

Pa. Speaker of the House says there could be financial consequences for the Philadelphia School District.

Philly Mag Citified BY HOLLY OTTERBEIN | FEBRUARY 19, 2015 AT 11:39 AM

Pennsylvania Speaker of the House Rep. Mike Turzai says he is “very disappointed” that the Philadelphia School Reform Commission voted Wednesday night to approve only five of 39 new charter school proposals. The Allegheny County Republican made clear by Thursday morning that the SRC’s vote could have consequences: He says it “makes it tougher” to have a discussion about reinstating the charter reimbursement line item in the state budget. The phrase “charter reimbursement line item” might sound wonky, but it represents a potentially huge amount of money for the Philadelphia School District. Former Gov. Tom Corbett eliminated the line item in 2011, cutting more than $100 million annually from the city’s schools.

Public school advocates and education reformers alike have urged GOP leaders in Harrisburg to put the line item back into the budget. Many see it as the most feasible way to persuade Republican and rural lawmakers to provide more money to Philadelphia’s schools.

Turzai originally told us the SRC’s vote “negates” the conversation on reinstating the line item.

“If they’re not going to provide the charter schools for the parents and grandparents that want them,” Turzai said, “I think that negates the discussion.” Jay Ostrich, a spokesman for Turzai, later walked back his statement, saying the speaker “misspoke” and meant that the SRC’s vote makes the conversation more difficult.

Read more at http://www.phillymag.com/news/2015/02/19/mike-turzai-disappointed-src-new-charter-schools-philadelphia/#8I36q3J0wzACtRdv.99

The rightwing group ALEC has long promoted state charter appeals board so that charters turned down by local boards can appeal to a friendly Governor-appointed state board.

Philadelphia’s School Reform Commission authorized five new charters of some three dozen proposed.

Guess what?

“Charter school providers turned down in Philly can make a case before state appeals board

WHYY Newsworks BY BILL HANGLEY FEBRUARY 19, 2015

Marc Mannella is a veteran of the Philadelphia education reform movement, but his education in the finer points of charter law may have only just begun. “One way to look at tonight was that it was a night only lawyers could love,” said Mannella on Wednesday, after the School Reform Commission shot down two of his three proposed new charter schools. As the head of KIPP Philadelphia, Mannella must now decide whether to turn those lawyers loose. Until this year, the SRC had the final say on Philadelphia charters. But thanks to an amendment included in last summer’s cigarette tax bill, charter providers can now appeal the SRC’s decisions to the state’s Charter Appeal Board. It’s that board that now has the final say over which charters open, and which ones close.

http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/local//item/78701-charter-school-providers-turned-down-in-philly-can-make-a-case-before-state-appeals-board/

EduShyster has a guest columnist, Susan DeJarnatt, a law professor at Temple University and Philadelphia public school parent. She writes here about how Philadelphia’s public schools and children are likely to be affected by a gift of $25 million to open more charter schools. Philadelphia’s public schools were grievously wounded by drastic budget cuts over the past few years, imposed by the state. Its students are overwhelmingly poor and racially segregated.

 

DeJarnatt writes:

 

Philadelphia still isn’t quite choicey enough for the choice choosers at the Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP). The PSP wants more charters so much that it has offered to pony up $25 million to cover the cost of 11,000 new *high performing seats.* No one—not even PSP—thinks the math works. But the real math problems are in the demographics of the charters whose expansion the PSP is proposing to underwrite. These *high quality* schools aren’t teaching the same kids that attend District schools, which means that granting them more seats will decimate the remaining District schools. This *gift* will keep on giving—till Philadelphia has no more public schools.

 

This is not a gift that keeps on giving. It is a very high-maintenance gift:

 

Philly’s deepest pocketed education reform organization calculates the cost of adding 11,000 new *high performing* seats at $21,783,214. But the real bill will be much more—both because the charters plan to add many more seats, and because PSP low-balled the cost, which the District estimates as $7,000 per seat or $77 million and growing year by year. Confused yet? Perhaps an analogy would help. Say I *give* you $50,000 because your house needs some serious repairs. But you only get the money if you use it to buy a new house for $500,000. The ongoing mortgage and costs will be on you, of course—too bad if you can’t keep up with them and end up in foreclosure.

 

 

DeJarnatt points out that there are big differences between the “high-quality” charter operators and the District’s student body. 86% of the District’s students are poor; most of the charters serve smaller percentages of poor students. 10% of Philly’s public school students are English language learners; most of the charters serve fewer or no ELL students. Only 14.18% of the District’s students are white; most of the charters enroll many more white students.

 

The upshot? With few exceptions, the charters enroll different demographics from the public schools. In addition, the charters benefit from large infusions of extra money provided by their sponsors, and even by the PSP that wants to close public schools and open privately managed charters.

 

Some of these schools also benefit from very significant infusions of extra cash beyond the funding they get from the District—cash that isn’t available to individual District schools. According to their 990 tax returns, KIPP got just shy of $2 million in grants or contributions in 2012, while Mastery pulled in amounts ranging from a low of $1,237,912 for Clymer up to $9,210,232 for Mastery Charter High School. Most of the Mastery schools listed amounts in the $1 to 2 million range. PSP itself gave Mastery $3.5 million in 2013.

 

Meanwhile we can’t even attempt to do the math on one other important consideration. Who are PSP’s funders and how do they stand to benefit from any decision to further expand charters in Philadelphia? PSP would benefit from remedial civics classes too—to reinforce the principles that public education is a public good and transparency is key to democracy.

 

Is this a gift horse or a Trojan horse? Will it deplete the public schools of more students and resources? Of course. Will it promote the collapse of public education in the City of Brotherly Love, the city where our nation’s Constitution was written to establish our government? Most likely.

 

Strangest of all in the PSP description of charters by is the reference to “high performing seats,” as though chairs in charter schools get higher test scores. Students “perform,” seats do not. The reports on charter school performance show that charters seldom outperform public schools when their enrollments are similar, unless they have far greater amounts of money to spend on small classes and other expensive perks.

 

PS: At a tumultuous public meeting, the Philadelphia School Reform Commission approved five new charter schools.

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