Archives for category: Philadelphia

Joseph Batory, former superintendent of public schools in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, says it is time to abolish the School Reform Commission that has governed Philadelphia’s public schools since 2001. It has presided over the destruction of public education. Having failed, it is time to replace it with an elected board. At least, it will be accountable to the public. It can’t be worse than the SRC!


Batory writes:


“It is clearly time for Philadelphia to rid itself of the State-imposed School Reform Commission (SRC) overseeing the city’s public schools. This politically appointed board, with three members appointed by the Governor and two by the Mayor, has been a colossal failure. The SRC has presided over an educational disaster in Philadelphia.


“Given the priority goal of establishing better fiscal oversight for the schools in 2001, the SRC’s legacy has been perpetual budget deficits in spite of the fact that Philadelphia’s public schools have been stripped of many teachers, nurses, librarians, counselors as well as basic supplies. Incredibly, a 12-year-old child died because she dared to have an asthma attack on a day when the school did not have a nurse. In terms of services to and opportunities for students, Philadelphia schools are running far behind their suburban counterparts. What sort of formula for public school success is this?


“The SRC has regularly has demonized the teachers union, limited parent, student and community voices, and promoted the expansion of the charter school sector, despite the fact that these actions have only worsened the District’s fiscal problems.


“On top of all of this, the Boston Consulting Group was paid more than $2 million by the William Penn Foundation via an incestuous relationship with the SRC to create a biased “Blueprint for Reform.” This plan laid out a five year course of privatization which would close one-fourth of Philadelphia’s schools, placing 40% of students into charters, and dividing up the remaining schools into NYC-inspired “achievement networks” run by third party operators (editor’s note: they were unsuccessful in NYC).


“The SRC’s two most famous CEO/Superintendent appointments were little more than “top down” dictators rather than “enablers” who demeaned principals and teachers, robotized teaching, and produced minimal school improvements at best. Yet each of them was well rewarded with generous salaries, including a $65,000.00 bonus in just one year to one of them on top of her annual salary.


“The SRC’s policies have provoked broad and sustained opposition from the public over the last two years. On numerous occasions, parents, students, and educators have taken to the streets and to City Council and SRC meetings to register their dissent.


“Thankfully, at least one State Senator is trying to do something. Senator Mike Stack (D-Northeast), is now calling for Philadelphians to elect school-board members. His proposed Senate Bill would return a locally elected school board to Philadelphia.

“Stack told the Philadelphia City Council Committee on Education recently. “The SRC fails the accountability and transparency test because it is not elected by the taxpayers. Therefore, it is not accountable to parents, students, and certainly not the taxpayers. It is only accountable to the Governor or Mayor who have appointed them.”


“Helen Gym, co-founder of Parents United for Public Education agrees. The SRC is “a body that has refused to commit to transparency,” she said. “SRC policy denies people an adequate opportunity to speak to the issues. It is a serious imposition on the public.”

“Make no mistake about it. An elected school board is no panacea. However, the School Reform Commission has had its opportunity to create positive change for Philadelphia’s schools and failed miserably. Tragically, Philadelphia’s public school children have been and continue to be victims of this political abuse and neglect. The School Reform Commission needs to be abolished.”



Three law professors studied the discipline codes at Philadelphia charter schools and concluded that these punitive codes are used to push out students who are “non-compliant or challenging.”


The article, which will be published in “The Urban Lawyer,” was written by Susan DeJarnatt,  Temple University – James E. Beasley School of Law; Kerrin C. Wolf, Stockton University; and Mary Kate Kalinich, Temple University – James E. Beasley School of Law.


The authors found that: 38% of the Philadelphia charter school codes use the phrase “zero tolerance,” 74% specify offenses for which suspension is mandatory, and 38% of the charter codes mandate expulsion for certain offenses. Approximately three-quarters of charter schools have no-excuses policies in their codes. They learned that a student may be expelled “for repeated failures to recite the school pledge on demand in English by November of the 9th grade year and in Latin by the end of the 10th grade year, for having missing homework, and for failure to upgrade a failed test.” (p. 41) They found that students may be expelled for “failure to disclose on the application that a student is a currently enrolled special education student” (p. 41). One code permits expulsion for “inappropriate facial gestures” (p. 42)


You can read the article in full. Here is the abstract.
Exclusionary school discipline can steer students away from educational opportunities and towards the juvenile and criminal justice systems. As many public school systems have turned to exclusionary school discipline practices over the past two decades, they have also increasingly adopted charter schools as alternatives to traditional public schools. This research is examines the student codes of conduct for the charter schools in the School District of Philadelphia to consider the role of their disciplinary practices and the potential effects on charter students.


We analyzed every disciplinary code provided to the Philadelphia School District by charter schools within Philadelphia during the 2014-2015 school year. Our goal was to examine the provisions relating to detention, suspension, and expulsion, along with other disciplinary responses, to determine what conduct can result in disciplinary consequences, what responses are available for various types of misbehavior, and whether the code language is clear or ambiguous or even accessible to students or potential students and their parents or caregivers. We conclude that too many of the codes are not well drafted, and too many follow models of punitive discipline that can be used to push out non-compliant or challenging students. Some codes grant almost complete discretion to school administrators to impose punitive discipline for any behavior the administrator deems problematic.


We hope that this work will spur future research on implementation of charter school discipline policies to illustrate how charter schools are using their codes. Further, we hope to see the charter sector develop model disciplinary codes that move away from a zero tolerance punitive model towards disciplinary systems based on restorative principles.


The question it implicitly poses for the reader is why it makes sense to run two public-funded school systems: one that accepts all students, the other with the power to exclude or expel those it doesn’t want. This question has strong pertinence in Philadelphia where the public school system has been stripped of funding and resources over the past decade, so that the two systems are separate and unequal.



Sarah Garland writes in the Hechinger Report about a change of direction for the Mastery Charter chain in Philadelphia. The CEO of Mastery, Scott Gordon, has decided to ease up on the strict rules of “no-excuses.” Garland believes that what Mastery does and how it works out might affect no-excuses charters across the nation.


I am not convinced that what happens in the Simon Gratz High School, a charter school in Philadelphia, will change the direction of no-excuses charters nationally, but it is an interesting story anyway.


Garland acknowledges that critics blame charters for the near-collapse of the Philadelphia public school system, but she leaves unresolved whether Mastery is the solution or the problem.


Garland writes:



More than 40 percent of the high school’s 280 freshmen show up reading below a fifth-grade level. Several city special-education programs are located at the school, so about a third of students also have special needs, ranging from cognitive disabilities to emotional disorders. In 2011, the year before Mastery took over, the graduation rate was 58 percent.

Administrators started out by instituting the no-excuses playbook, as Mastery had done at several of its other institutions. Under this approach, students are held to high expectations no matter what circumstances they come from – or what happens at home at the end of the school day. The strategies typically include strict discipline, extra time in school, drilling in math and English, and accountability for teachers and principals, usually based on testing. Administrators adopt a rigid set of rules and punishments. A top-down lecturing style is followed in the classroom.

At Simon Gratz, students began raising their hands in class, tucking in their shirts, and racking up demerits and detentions for the smallest infractions.

The new administrators also dismantled the metal detectors guarding the entrance of the building. The idea was to make it seem more like a scholarly institution and less like a prison. But in this case students and parents balked. They didn’t feel safe without the detectors, security guards, and bag checks. The school, nevertheless, came off the state’s “persistently dangerous” list as the hallways calmed down and fewer fights broke out.

Teachers drilled students in note-taking strategies and the standards they had to master. Test scores rose at first. But then they stalled. Gratz still wasn’t the friendly, dynamic place Mastery administrators had imagined.

The high expectations and rigid rules weren’t enough to erase the trauma that has scarred many kids. In the years after Mastery took over Gratz, one student witnessed her father shoot and kill her mother. Another saw his uncle shot in the head and had to drag his best friend’s body to a police car after he was gunned down in the street. An honors student was hit by a stray bullet and died. Another student accidentally shot himself.
Related: How to educate traumatized students

Gordon worried that Mastery was in danger of confirming what many critics often charge about charter schools: That while many of them may do a good job of preparing kids to do well on standardized tests and get into college, their students founder once they arrive on campus. That the mostly white leaders of urban charter networks are, at best, out of touch with the mostly black and Hispanic communities they serve, or, at worst, guilty of a paternalistic racism that undermines their mission of uplift.

“A mistake that we made was the assumption that schools were not successful because they weren’t well run, or they weren’t well organized, or that teachers weren’t trained and supported.”

Gordon was ready to make a change. “We were frustrated that we couldn’t break through,” he says. “We got feedback from our graduates that the … support structure that we had created for students – ‘kids will not fail’ – was not serving them once they got into the real world. The real world was not as supportive. They had to really develop the independence to manage themselves.”

Gordon tinkered with parts of the model, but after struggling to get it right, he decided to start over.

Mastery administrators introduced a new curriculum, new teaching methods, and a new disciplinary system. They hired more social workers and brought in more assistance from community organizations that help kids deal with trauma. They made training in racism and “cultural context” mandatory for all of Mastery’s teachers and administrators, across every school in the city.

“Often you see people who are really bold as those who might not listen,” says Kathy Hamel, a partner at the Charter School Growth Fund, a nonprofit that supports Mastery. “But [Gordon] is a very good listener, and he’s learned to listen and adapt.”

Mastery administrators decided that to serve their students best, they should make sure all had the option to go to college, but not insist on it. They began developing programs to support students headed into the military or to technical programs and immediate jobs. Even the charter network’s motto – “Excellence. No Excuses.” – is under review.

“We still believe there are no excuses for this country not to be able to provide a great education for every kid,” Gordon says. “There is no excuse; every child can learn and be successful. But I’m not sure it speaks to the soul of Mastery right now. That’s part of our job: to prepare our kids for the real world, and to recognize that there’s great promise in the world. It’s also a broken world.”


What do you think?

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the Philadelphia School Reform Commission has repeatedly exceeded its legal authority by ignoring parts of state law. The head of the SRC said the ruling was a disaster, but others hailed it as a sign that state control of the city’s school was a disaster. The suit was brought by a charter school that objected to the SRC’s cap on its enrollment. Both charter schools and public schools saw the decision as a victory.


On the day that the Philadelphia School Reform Commission approved three new charter schools, the state Supreme Court issued a ruling Tuesday that could have grave implications for the cash-strapped district’s finances and operations for years to come.


The court ruled that the SRC had no legal power to suspend portions of the state charter law and school code. The ruling strips the commission of extraordinary powers it believed it had – and used.


It was too soon to say exactly what the fallout for the school system would be – district lawyers offered no official comment – but early indications were ominous.


By declaring unconstitutional a portion of the takeover law that the SRC has relied on heavily, many of the major actions the commission has taken in recent years – up to and including bypassing seniority in teacher assignments – could be subject to reversal.


Helen Gym, a parent activist who was recently elected to the Philadelphia City Council, saw the ruling as a rebuke to state control of the city’s public schools and the underfunding of public schools:



“Yesterday’s Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling makes unmistakably clear that the School Reform Commission and Pennsylvania’s fifteen-year experiment in state takeover have been a disaster for students and schools.”

“Since its formation, and particularly in recent years, the SRC has used its unprecedented powers to impose new rules that allow schools to operate without essential staff, slash programming, close schools, and violate key sections of the teachers’ contract. The SRC has also continued to recklessly expand the charter sector by approving new charters and ceding control of dozens of schools to private operators. Charter payments have rapidly become the District’s largest cost burden while underfunded, understaffed neighborhood schools languish in disrepair.”

“After years of administrative overreach and failed experimentation, with no end in sight to the ‘fiscal distress’ the Commission was supposed to alleviate, the time has come to dissolve the School Reform Commission and finally give control of Philadelphia’s schools to Philadelphians.”
“Furthermore, with the Court’s declaration that Harrisburg may not abdicate its responsibilities to the SRC, it has become urgently necessary for the General Assembly to fix the state’s broken system for funding and regulating public education. Specifically the legislature must address its deeply-flawed, nineteen-year old charter law, which prevents school districts from exercising full control over charter school authorization and growth. Without action, Philadelphia’s school district will not remain solvent and is at grave risk.”

“Both in Philadelphia and across the state, it is abundantly clear that our system of public schools, so many of which are struggling to provide the most basic services to students, cannot be called ‘thorough and efficient.’ It is now up to the Courts to weigh in on the need for a fair funding system, and to ensure that the legislature does its job.”




The ex-principal of the Franklin Towne Charter School has filed suit against his former employer, charging that he was fired because he objected to improper activities.


A federal whistle-blower suit claims an elementary principal at the Franklin Towne Charter School in Bridesburg was hired under false pretenses and then terminated after he raised serious concerns about its operations.


Todd A. Dupell alleges that he was wrongfully dismissed as principal last August after he complained to the board chair that the charter was billing the Philadelphia School District for full-day kindergarten even though the program was not full day; the charter was awash in nepotism; and the school was paying the wife of a former board member $80,000 for a nonexistent job because otherwise her husband could “make noise.”


Dupell also alleged that the charter was violating state law because it was not providing required services to students who were learning English….


Dupell gave up his tenured post as a principal in Bucks County to work for the charter school. He was told by staffers that the former principal had been removed because of improper activities, including charges of shoplifting and using excessive force against a student. Then Dupell learned that the former principal would be his supervisor. Dupell said that when he met with the chair of the charter board to express his concerns, he was terminated.



Matthew L. Mandel, a National Board Certified Teacher in Philadelphia, is dumbfounded that Superintendent William Hite got a new contract when the district is in disarray. Please note, when you open the article, that the newspaper/website added a photograph with a caption that contradicts what Matthew wrote. In the article, he explained why it was too soon to give a new five-year contract to the Superintendent but the caption reads: “Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. deserved to have his contract extended.” The point of Matthew’s article is: No, he doesn’t.


Mandel writes:


Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. referred to a recent education bill passed by the Pennsylvania Senate as a “recipe for disaster.” That phrase also describes the School Reform Commission’s decision to extend Hite’s contract by five years, with two years remaining on the original.


In a statement, SRC Chair Marjorie Neff said it was the right time to lock in Hite for the long term, lauding him for demonstrating “strong leadership through an extraordinarily difficult time.” I wonder if she feels the same about losing scores of superb classroom teachers who left to work somewhere they feel valued and respected, or the many more who retired because they couldn’t take the conditions and mistreatment in the School District of Philadelphia anymore.


Neff, a retired teacher and principal, nearly discarded 50 years of collective bargaining progress when she supported cancellation of the teachers’ contract last year. She called that decision one of the most difficult of her life. She doesn’t appear nearly as troubled, however, that a district on financial life-support has spent millions on bad contracts and the endless pursuit of judicial relief from its obligations.


One could argue that Hite has achieved everything he was hired to do and, thus, has earned another contract….



I’m puzzled by the apparent urgency to get this contract extension done now, with no state budget, stagnant test scores, unhealthy and deplorable conditions in school buildings, and taxpayers who believe they have no voice in education decisions. Could it be that the district was afraid of losing him? If so, it points to another troubling pattern that has festered under state control of Philadelphia’s schools.
In a district with the highest child poverty rate in America – and dedicated but demoralized employees that have gone four years without a raise – the unelected and unaccountable SRC continues to place its emphasis on meeting the needs of central office management and charter-school operators rather than of the children and educators who spend their lives in Philly’s public schools.


“This contract extension is just the latest example of how the SRC’s priorities don’t align with what’s important to the district’s educators, children, and caregivers. And the latest example of this dichotomy should serve as a rallying cry to return to local control of our schools.


“Our district educates some of the nation’s neediest children, but lacks even basic supplies and enough critical staff to compensate for the unfair hand dealt to many of our kids. Yet, the SRC has prioritized a contract extension that affords Hite the security that Philadelphia’s teachers, children, and caregivers can only dream of.”




Steven Singer is a teacher in Pennsylvania. This is a moving post, and he gave me permission to post it in full. It has many links. If you want to read them, open the article.



Pennsylvania lawmakers are ready to help all students across the Commonwealth – if only they can abuse, mistreat and trample some of them.


Which ones? The poor black and brown kids. Of course!


That seems to be the lesson of a school code bill passed with bipartisan support by the state Senate Thursday.


The legislation would require the Commonwealth to pick as many as 5 “underperforming” Philadelphia schools a year to close, charterize or just fire the principal and half the staff. It would also allow non-medically trained personnel to take an on-line course before working in the district to treat diabetic school children. And it would – of course – open the floodgates to more charter schools!


It’s a dumb provision, full of unsubstantiated facts, faulty logic and corporate education reform kickbacks. But that’s only the half of it!


The bill is part of a budget framework agreed to by Governor Tom Wolf and the Republican-controlled legislature necessary to finally pass a state-wide spending plan. The financial proposal has been held hostage for almost half a year!


The major sticking point has been school funding. Democrats like Wolf demand an increase. Republicans refuse. And the worst part is that the increase would only begin to heal the cuts the GOP made over the last four years.


Republicans just won’t clean up their own mess.


They slashed public school budgets by almost $1 billion per year for the last four years with disastrous consequences. Voters who could make little headway against a GOP legislature entrenched in office through gerrymandering rebelled by kicking the Republican Governor out of Harrisburg and voting in Wolf, a new chief executive who promised to support school children.


But for the last 5 months, the Republican-controlled legislature simply refused to spend money on – yuck – school children! Especially poor brown and black kids who rely more on state funding! Barf!


Finally a bargain was struck to put the money back, but only if it screws over more poor black and brown kids.


As usual, Philadelphia Schools are the state’s whipping boy.


For decades saddled with a host of social ills yet starved of resources, Philadelphia Schools simply couldn’t function on funding from an impoverished local tax base. The 8th largest school district in the country needed a financial investment from the state to make up the difference. However, in 2001 the Commonwealth decided it would only do this if it could assume control with a mostly unelected School Recovery Commission (SRC). Now after 14 years of failure, the state has decided annually to take a quintet of Philly schools away from the state and give them to – THE STATE! The State Department of Education, that is, which will have to enact one of the above terrible reforms to turn the schools around.


Yet each of these reforms is a bunch of baloney!


Hiring non-medical personnel with on-line training to treat diabetic kids!? Yes, two children died in Philly schools recently because budget cuts took away full-time school nurses. But this solution is an outrage! Try proposing it at a school for middle class or rich kids! Try proposing it for a school serving a mostly white population!


More charter schools!? Most new charter companies aren’t even interested in taking over Philly learning institutions. There’s no money in it! The carcass has been picked clean!


Privatizing public schools has never increased academic outcomes. Charter schools – at best – do no better than traditional public schools and – most often – do much worse.


Closing schools is a ridiculous idea, too. No school has ever been improved by being shut down. Students uprooted from their communities rarely see academic gains.


And firing staff because the legislature won’t provide resources is like kicking your car because you forgot to buy gas. You can’t get blood from a stone.


But this is what Republicans are demanding. And most of the Democrats are giving in. Every state Senator from Philadelphia voted for this plan – though reluctantly.


Is this really the only way to reach some kind of normalcy for the rest of the state? Do we really need to bleed Philadelphia some more before we can heal the self-inflicted wounds caused by our conservative legislators?


The bill includes a $100 million increase for Philadelphia Schools. But this is just healing budget cuts made to the district four years ago. Until Republicans took over the legislature, Philadelphia received this same sum from the state to help offset the vampire bite of charter schools on their shrinking budgets. Now – like all impoverished Pennsylvania schools – that charter school reimbursement is only a memory.


So this money only puts Philly back to where it was financially a handful of years ago when it was still struggling.


It’s a bad bargain for these students. Though some might argue it’s all we’ve got.


A sane government would increase funding to meet the needs of the students AND return the district to local control.


Republicans demand accountability for any increase in funding but how does this new bill do that exactly? Charter schools are not accountable to anyone but their shareholders. The School Recovery Commission has been failing for over a decade. Since most are political appointees, who are they accountable to really?


A duly elected school board would be accountable to residents. If voters didn’t like how they were leading the district, they could vote them out. THAT would be accountability. Not this sham blood sacrifice.


The state House is set to vote on this bill soon and will probably pass it, too. Maybe that’s just as well. Maybe there really is no other choice in the twisted halls of Pennsylvania politics.


However, let’s be honest about it. This is some classist, racist bullshit.

The original Elementary and Secondary Education Act was intended to add resources to schools that enrolled the poorest students. Its goal was equality of educational opportunity, not higher test scores. But forget about it. The goal of federal and state policy is raising test scores.


What about equity? What about equality of educational opportunity?


Read and view this portrait of Philadelphia’s filthy public schools and ask how Americans can tolerate such conditions? This is shameful.


Every member of the Pennsylvania legislature should walk through the schools of the City of Brotherly Love and ask themselves: Why did we cut the budget? Why are the children of Philadelphia less deserving of decent learning conditions than the children in suburban districts?

Yesterday, the ex-CEO of Chicago Public Schools, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, pleaded guilty to a kickback scheme involving SUPES Academy. She is facing serious jail time. The owners of SUPES Academy, who made an agreement to pay BBB, have yet to be judged. Mayor Rahm Emanuel would like to pin the guilt squarely on BBB, but the Chicago Tribune revealed yesterday that the owner of SUPES is an ally of Emanuel and recommended first J.C. Blizzard as CEO, then BBB.

Jonathan Pelto, master blogger of Connecticut, sees connections that go beyond what we know so far. He sees Paul Vallas as a player in the Chicago drama. If you like to read truth-is-stranger-than-fiction stories, read his post.

Pelto writes:

Charges were also filed against The SUPES Academy LLC and Synesi Associates LLC, as well as against the owners of those two companies, Gary Solomon and Thomas Vranas. According to the indictment, their role in the kick-back scheme includes charges of bribery and conspiracy to defraud the United States.

A third company owned by the two individuals, PROACT Search, a superintendent search firm that provided New Haven with Superintendent Garth Harris and Norwalk with Superintendent Steven Adamowski has also been caught up in the FBI’s investigation into the Chicago scandal….

Prior to being hand-picked by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to run Chicago’s Public Schools, Byrd-Bennett worked as a consultant and lead teacher for The Supes Academy, worked as a consultant for Synesi Associates and was listed as a part of the management team at PROACT Search.

While many key actors in the Corporate Education Reform Industry have been involved with Gary Solomon and his companies, one of the most prominent names on Solomon’s list of close colleagues is the Great Paul Vallas, the Education Reform Guru and former CEO of the Chicago, Philadelphia and New Orleans public school systems.

More recently, Democratic Governor and education reform disciple Dannel Malloy brought Vallas to Bridgeport, Connecticut and then twisted Connecticut law in knots so that Vallas could stay for two years until local residents had finally had enough and forced Vallas to leave the job and return to Illinois.

As for the situation in Chicago, it could certainly be said that Gary Solomon’s ability to build such a “successful” corporate education reform company is due, in no small part, to his close relationship with Paul Vallas.

Vallas not only hired Solomon and his companies when he worked in Philadelphia, but brought Solomon with him to New Orleans.

And Vallas worked to bring other business to Solomon and his companies as well.

While Vallas has publicly claimed that he has no financial interest in any of Solomon’s consulting activities, in Vallas’ Philadelphia days Solomon’s consulting company advertised that it had “the exclusive rights to Paul Vallas’ model of education reform….”

The story gets weirder and weirder, as Vallas and Solomon play tag team:

When Paul Vallas moved on to New Orleans to head the Louisiana Recovery School District, Solomon picked up even more lucrative contracts.

But it is a story out of Illinois that provides a true snap-shot and insider’s view into how Vallas and the Corporate Education Reform Industry works;

While Gary Solomon and his companies profited greatly via Vallas in Philadelphia and New Orleans, it is the somewhat more hidden story surrounding the Rockford School District (PSD 150) in Illinois the provides telling evidence about how Vallas and the Corporate Education Reform Industry works.

More consulting contracts. Follow the story. Pelto is an amazing investigative reporter.

In Philadelphia, thanks to state law, the city’s public schools are in dire need of renovation, while charter schools build and acquire facilities they can’t afford. Here is one of the articles that revealed this scandalous situation. It is not sustainable to maintain two school systems in one city or state.

The editorial board of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes:

“Philadelphia’s regular public school buildings are so run down that the cost to repair them is estimated at $4 billion. Those buildings aren’t likely to get face-lifts with the School District limping from funding crisis to funding crisis. In contrast, the city’s charter schools have received $500 million in taxpayer-backed bonds for new or improved buildings….

“With no one saying no, some charters are in a frenzy to acquire or renovate buildings and finance the transactions with bond issues they can’t afford. The Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp. issues bonds for charters, but fees for lawyers, consultants, and others who profit from the deals aren’t fully disclosed.

“Bonds for charters cost more because the risks are higher, Rutgers University professor Bruce Baker told’s Alex Wigglesworth and Ryan Briggs. Those risks are passed on to taxpayers, who get stuck with even more costs when charters default, which has become common nationally.

“Consider the Walter D. Palmer Leadership Learning Partners Charter School. It was the first Philadelphia charter to receive bond funding, and the first to default. The Northern Liberties school spent $11 million in bond funds in 2005, but closed abruptly in December. Taxpayers have paid $6 million in debt service, but the building will likely be sold to pay creditors.

“String Theory Charter School in Center City is paying $5.6 million a year in debt service on the $55 million it borrowed to purchase a swanky building. The charter’s debt service has helped put String Theory $500,000 in the red and forced it to cancel some classes and bus service.

“The $3,895 per student String Theory spends on debt service for the high-rise it bought far exceeds the average of $875 per student being spent on district schools such as Solis-Cohen Elementary in the Northeast, which was so run-down that its students had to be transferred for safety.”



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