Lisa Haver, Parent Activist in Philadelphia, writes here about how it takes years and millions of dollars to close failing charter schools. The public must pay the cost of challenging the charter and pay the cost of defending the charter. The charter operator gets a free ride for failing. Only the taxpayers and students lose.

Why is it easy to close a public school but hard to close a charter school? One guess: charter lobbyists wrote the state law.

Lisa Haver writes:

“This is an unbelievable story about what it takes to shut down a failing charter in Pennsylvania.
“Aspira charter operates 5 schools in Philadelphia, 2 of which are Renaissance charters–Olney High School and Stetson Middle school.  The Renaissance program is the one where the district hands over management of struggling district schools to people who are not educators in the belief that they can bring up test scores–which Aspira has not done. The Renaissance program has been a very expensive failure in Philadelphia.
“This Aspira renewal process is now in its 5th year–since 2014.  There have been numerous stories, including many in the Philadelphia Daily News–about misuse of taxpayer funds and other evidence of mismanagement.
“The District finally voted in 2017 not to renew these charters.
“For some reason, it took almost 18 months to begin the hearings.
“The District has to pay its own lawyer and hearing examiner AND for the charter schools’ lawyers.
“APPS members including me have attended the hearings every day for the first two weeks, and it is obvious that the charters’ lawyers are running up their own legal fees by asking the same questions over and over to a succession of witnesses.
“This is going to cost the District well over $150,000.  That is a lowball figure.
“When the district closed 24 schools in 2013, there were NO legal hearings at all.  The state requires a long legal process for revoking a charter that may have been around for 5 or 10 years, but none for neighborhood schools that have been around for decades–like Germantown high, which was closed one year before its 100th anniversary.
“A disgrace.”
From the article:

“One of the city’s charter-school operators has moved money from one account to another without explanation: no loan agreements, no signatures — “a shell game,” in the words of a Philadelphia School District auditor.

“Now the School District is shelling out money to try to pull two charters from Aspira — whose school bills are paid by the district — in a legal fight that could end up costing taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars.

“It’s really the district paying for both sides, which is kind of insane,” said Temple University law professor Susan DeJarnatt.

“Welcome to Pennsylvania charter school law,” said Auditor General Eugene DePasquale. “It’s unbelievable.”

Parent advocates have called on school officials for years to investigate these failing charters but were ignored.