More than 1,000 parents and students turned out to protest noisily against the closing of 12 neighborhood schools.

The new superintendent Willam Hite says the closings are necessary to save money and to adjust to declining enrollments. But nowhere does he address the cause of declining enrollments: the proliferation of charter schools.

Take this example:

“Others focused on the district’s proposal to close Strawberry Mansion High.
Frank Thorne, an alumnus of the school, angrily questioned Hite on why Mansion is being closed, rather than improved.
“I’m asking you, man to man, what you are you going to do to fix it?” said Thorne.
But Thorne’s own experience highlights the District’s dilemma.
Though Mansion would be his daughter’s neighborhood school, he sends her to Mastery-Simon Gratz, a former district high school now run by an outside charter operator. Thorne cited the school’s superior curriculum and communication with parents as motivations for his decision.
He’s not alone.
According to the district, 2,053 students live in Mansion’s geographic boundary, but only 332 of those children attend the school. Nearly 600 attend charters.
The result is that the school has room for more than 1,700 students, but is 75 percent vacant.”

Why isn’t Hite improving Strawberry Mansion? Why doesn’t he install a superior curriculum and better communications?

By closing these schools, he will create more candidates for charters. And as they expand, the public schools will wither and die.

Does Hite really want to be known as the man who killed public education in Philadelphia?

And what about the record of the charters in Philadelphia? The state-controlled School Reform Commission of Philadelphia is determined to open dozens of new charters to replace public schools.

A shocking number are under investigation for corruption and fraud and cheating.

A Philadelphia reporter points out the spotty reputation of the city’s charters:

“Last week the FBI charged one of the pioneers of the charter-school movement, June Hairston Brown, and four colleagues with defrauding $6.5 million from three Philadelphia schools she had founded: Agora Cyber Charter School, Planet Abacus Charter School and Laboratory Charter School of Communication & Language – all taxpayers’ money.

“In April, the School Reform Commission terminated the charters of three more city schools – Truebright Science Academy, Arise Academy and Hope Charter School – citing poor academic performance and unqualified personnel. One of them, True­bright Science Academy, turned out to be a disguised unit in a national chain of charter schools run by a secretive Turkish Muslim preacher, Fethullah Gulen, whose “science” teachings include creationism.

“Trouble was brewing in other charter schools even earlier – literally, in the case of the Harambee Institute of Science & Technology Charter School, which in 2010 was caught running an after-hours club in the school cafeteria.

“Last Friday, the School District’s overseer of charter schools Thomas Darden was forced out after a steamy School Reform Commission meeting — a move the School District kept secret for three days.

“The time has come to start asking hard questions about an educational revolution which may have gone sour.”

Yes, Superintendent Hite: The time has come to start asking hard questions about an educational revolution which may have gone sour. And it is past time to ask why the School Reform Commission is determined to close down public education and replace it with more schools of dubious quality run by operators of unknown integrity.