Archives for category: Philadelphia

Lisa Haver is a retired teacher and prominent advocate for the public schools of Philadelphia. Those public schools have been subject to state takeover, privatization, and every other failed reformy tactic. She hoped that those bad old days were over. They are not. The new board hired an inexperienced superintendent who needed the help of a much-criticized consulting firm at a cost of $450,000.

She expressed her frustration in this article.

After years of pain and frustration that included the closing of neighborhood schools, privatization driven by standardized tests, crumbling infrastructure, and more than one debacle, the people of Philadelphia were psyched for new leadership in the school district.

The door to new priorities seemed to open with the arrival of Tony Watlington as the next superintendent.

But that door slammed shut before his tenure had even begun with the news that he’d brought in a Tennessee-based consulting firm to help him navigate his first year in the job. In May, the Board of Education voted unanimously and without deliberation to approve a one-year contract with Joseph & Associates. Price tag: $450,000. The board approved this contract — the last on a list of 92 official items — near the end of an 8-hour meeting.

According to a recent Chalkbeat article, the board hired the consulting firm to help Watlington “connect with people,” assist in assembling his transition team, and develop a 5-year plan for the district. Watlington said he asked for the contract so he could “hit the ground running by Day 1,” according to The Inquirer.

Apparently, Watlington decided the district’s current leadership of 16 department chiefs and 15 assistant superintendents could not help him do that, and that people from Tennessee could educate him about the district’s history and needs better than the people who live and work in Philly.

The Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools, the organization I co-founded, has reported on and analyzed the spending priorities of the district since 2012. We intended to ask the board directly why they hired Joseph & Associates, but all five APPS members who tried to sign up to speak at the June meeting were denied.

Last winter, in public town halls held for the three superintendent finalists, Watlington told parents, students, and educators he had a plan and wanted to meet with district stakeholders to hear their concerns. He didn’t say he could only do that by hiring an out-of-town consulting firm at a price higher than his own $340,000 salary.

The first official act of the new administration signals a continuation of those before him: hiring consultants and outsourcing work that should be done by district personnel. Sending resources into classrooms remains on the back burner.

The scope of the Joseph & Associates contract raises concerns for families and public education advocates for a number of reasons. Watlington said he wants the consultants to help him assess how the district can best meet the board’s “Goals and Guardrails” — a set of priorities based on standardized test data. This approach does not lend itself to creative learning or teaching. The Watlington administration should commit to funding proven reforms: smaller class size, more support staff, and reinstating school librarians.

But it’s the final phase of the Joseph & Associates contract that should sound the alarm for defenders of public education: the compilation of a 5-year “strategic plan” for the district. Many recall what happened a decade ago after the last long-range plan from an outside firm, the Boston Consulting Group: school closings and more privatization of neighborhood schools. Any plan that determines the future of the district and its ramifications for families and neighborhoods should be discussed and formulated in public meetings — not the private boardrooms of an out-of-state consulting firm.

Amy Frogge was president of the Nashville Board of Education. She is a public school parent and a lawyer. She heard that Philadelphia had hired a new superintendent and was paying $450,000 to a consulting firm to train the new superintendent. When she learned that the consulting firm was led by the former superintendent in Nashville, she wrote a letter of warning to the Philadelphia board. They ignored it. She decided to write one more letter, to be sure the Philadelphia board was fully informed. Now, it’s their problem.

From: Amy Frogge <amymfrogge@yahoo.com>

To: jwilkerson@philasd.org <jwilkerson@philasd.org>; lehinton@philasd.org <lehinton@philasd.org>; jdanzy@philasd.org <jdanzy@philasd.org>; mfixlopez@philasd.org <mfixlopez@philasd.org>; lsalley@philasd.org <lsalley@philasd.org>; cethompson@philasd.org <cethompson@philasd.org>; schoolboard@philasd.org <schoolboard@philasd.org>

Sent: Friday, July 1, 2022, 10:56:51 AM CDT

Subject: Joseph and Associates: A concise summary of what you are paying for in Philadelphia (with documentation).

Hi, everyone-

I hope this will be my last email to your board.

I’ve been sharing a lot of information on Twitter about the disaster that hit Nashville under Shawn Joseph’s leadership, but it appears that at least some of you are not active on Twitter. I want to make sure that you are fully apprised of what happened in Nashville as you move forward.

Here’s what happened in Nashville under Shawn Joseph’s leadership (with articles for your review as proof of my allegations):

1. The number of priority (low performing) schools nearly doubled. https://www.newschannel5.com/news/newschannel-5-investigates/metro-schools/number-of-troubled-nashville-schools-shows-dramatic-increase

2. We paid out millions upon millions in sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuits. https://www.newschannel5.com/news/newschannel-5-investigates/new-settlements-put-mnps-sexual-harassment-bills-near-2-million (The $2 million mentioned in this article was not the final tally; the cost continued to increase.)

3. We had major and ongoing problems with no-bid contracts for preferred vendors (costing millions), sometimes even for services that went unused. https://www.newschannel5.com/news/newschannel-5-investigates/what-did-mnps-get-for-1-million-potentially-not-much

4. Joseph and his team broke the law and misled the school board to put these contracts in place. https://www.kshb.com/news/national/nashville-schools-investigation-by-wtvf-contracts-law

5. We had an independent HR report done that identified an employee morale crisis, cronyism and “unconscionable” practices. https://www.newschannel5.com/news/newschannel-5-investigates/mnps-faces-morale-crisis-confidential-report-warns

6. Here’s what an award-winning HR executive had to say: https://www.newschannel5.com/news/newschannel-5-investigates/metro-schools/former-mnps-administrator-its-almost-as-if-isis-took-over-hr

7. Another respected Metro Nashville Schools employee on the HR problems:https://www.newschannel5.com/news/newschannel-5-investigates/metro-schools/administrator-accuses-mnps-of-pay-discrimination-retaliation

8. Dr. Joseph brought former Baltimore superintendent Dallas Dance, whom he claimed as a mentor, to Nashville to serve as a member of his Transition Team. Months later Dance was indicted on charges related to kickbacks on no-bid contracts. He went to prison. https://www.edweek.org/leadership/former-baltimore-county-superintendent-pleads-guilty-to-perjury-tied-to-kickback-scheme/2018/03

9. Around the time Joseph left Nashville, the state of TN recommended suspending Joseph’s professional educator’s license, which was required in his position as superintendent. https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/education/2019/03/26/state-education-board-seeks-disciplinary-action-against-nashville-schools-chief-shawn-joseph/3279612002/

10. Joseph’s license to work in Tennessee was later suspended. (Per the General Counsel for the Tennessee State Board of Education (via email): “Mr. Joseph’s license was previously suspended.”)

11. There was a lot more, too much to include in this thread, but this gives you a flavor: https://www.newschannel5.com/news/newschannel-5-investigates/what-you-need-to-know-about-shawn-josephs-controversies

12. Here’s some information on the national angle (that mentions Joseph): https://www.alternet.org/2019/09/another-school-leadership-disaster-private-companies-work-an-insider-game-to-reap-lucrative-contracts/

13. And this (also mentions Joseph): https://www.salon.com/2019/10/20/how-billionaire-charter-school-funders-corrupted-the-school-leadership-pipeline_partner/

After reading all of this, do you still think Tony Watlington needs advice from Shawn Joseph? I hope this dispels any questions about whether what you are hearing is misinformation.

As you can see, if you continue to move forward with Joseph and Associates, the $450,000 will be just the tip of the iceberg on spending.

Three Nashville school board members have now spoken with the media to warn Philadelphia against the use of Joseph and Associates. Any of us — and many more from Nashville — would be happy to share more about our experiences with you.

Philadelphia’s children are counting on you, and they deserve so much better. I wish you all the best of luck.

Amy Frogge, former Chair of the Nashville school board

The Philadelphia School Board hired an inexperienced school superintendent, then signed a contract to pay $450,000 to a firm to train the new superintendent. Former Nashville school board member Amy Frogge wrote an open letter to the Philadelphia school board, warning about the track record and failures of the consultant they hired.

The Philadelphia Inquirer published this editorial.

From the start, questions surrounded new Philadelphia School Superintendent Tony B. Watlington Sr.’s readiness for one of the toughest and most important jobs in the city.

Watlington only had a little over a year of experienceas a superintendent at the Rowan-Salisbury School System, a small suburban district in North Carolina.

With 114,000 students, the Philadelphia School District is more than five times the size of Rowan-Salisbury’s 18,200 students. Philadelphia’s $3.9 billion school budget dwarfs Rowan-Salisbury’s $191 million.

Watlington spent his career in North Carolina, a right-to-work state with nonunion schools. But Philadelphia is an entrenched union city and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers is known for driving hard bargains and challenging major reforms.

Now comes word that the School District hired a group of consultants to essentially help Watlington do a job for which he is paid $340,000 a year. In turn, 10 consultants are getting an eye-popping $450,000 to support Watlington and “ensure a smooth leadership transition as he begins his tenure.”

That’s some high-priced hand-holding. It is also an ominous start for Watlington, which signals he may not be ready for the big time.

More troubling, one of the lead consultants — the Tennessee-based firm Joseph & Associates — comes with a trail of controversy. The firm’s founder, Shawn Joseph, served as the superintendent of the Metro Nashville public school system for less than three years before the school board bought out his contract in 2019.

During Joseph’s tenure in Nashville, questions were raised about costlyno-bid contracts, his use of a school bus driver as his chauffeur, and a school maintenance employee doing work at Joseph’s home. After Joseph left, Tennessee education officials recommended suspending his state license for one year.

After hearing about Joseph’s consulting contract, a former Nashville school board member wrote a letter to Philadelphia school officials saying she was “deeply disturbed” by the contract and warned the district about Joseph.

Joseph’s consulting contract with the Philadelphia School District calls for him to help Watlington execute “a 100-day entry plan,” which will include a listening and learning tour of Philadelphia. So, the guy from Tennessee is going to help the guy from North Carolina find his way around Philly.

Phase two of the contract calls for Joseph’s firm to help Watlington develop and implement “a transition team process informed by the quantitative and qualitative data gathered” during the listening tour.

“So, the guy from Tennessee is going to help the guy from North Carolina find his way around Philly.”

Phase three of the contract calls for Joseph’s firm to help Watlington develop a five-year strategic plan that “will serve as the district’s road map to achieve the goals and guardrails.”

That’s all well and good, but the three-step plan amounts to little more than the basic tasks of any incoming superintendent. The existing staff at the School District should be able to show Watlington around Philadelphia and his executive team can help develop a five-year plan.

Watlington defended the $450,000 consulting contract, but it still sounds like a giant waste of taxpayers’ money. The School District should look to end this contract immediately. If Philadelphia is serious about improving educational outcomes of students, it should look to Washington, D.C., which has made impressive gains in student test scores largely by improving the quality of teachers.

If Watlington wants Joseph’s help, he can read Joseph’s book titled “The Principal’s Guide to the First 100 Days of the School Year: Creating Instructional Momentum.” It’s available on Amazon for $29.95. That’s a better deal than the $450,000 consulting contract.

By all accounts, Watlington comes across as a dedicated educator. But the Philadelphia School District needs a dynamic leader with a track record of success who can hit the ground running. Not one who requires an overpriced consultant to perform on-the-job training.

Amy Frogge is a parent of children in the Nashville public schools, a lawyer, and served two terms on the Metro Nashville school board. When she read in Chalkbeat that the Philadelphia school board had hired a consulting firm to advise its new superintendent, she was stunned. The consulting firm would be paid a fee of $450,000 for its advice. But what stunned her was that the firm was operated by the former Superintendent of Nashville, who had left under a cloud. This was the same superintendent who brought to Nashville a leadership team that included former Baltimore County superintendent Dallas Dance. Shortly after Dance was brought to Nashville, he was convicted and imprisoned on charges relating to consulting fees on a no-bid contract, which he lied about on financial disclosures.

Frogge sent the following letter to Philadelphia school board members:

Good morning-

My name is Amy Frogge. I am an attorney and former eight-year member of the Metro Nashville school board, where I served as both Vice Chair and Chair. 

I was deeply disturbed to see that your school district has entered into a contract with Joseph and Associates: https://philadelphia.chalkbeat.org/2022/6/21/23177395/consulting-firm-will-get-450000-to-help-new-philly-superintendent This article includes comments from two Nashville board members who claim that Shawn Joseph left our school district merely due to personality conflicts, when nothing could be further from the truth.

I know the contract has been finalized, but I am reaching out to you as a warning. When Joseph arrived in Nashville, his former supervisor from another school district reached out to me as well, and I wish I had heeded the warnings. I voted to hire him and remained his strong supporter until I finally realized what was happening behind the scenes.

When Shawn Joseph and his team arrived in Nashville, we were hit by millions of dollars in no-bid contracts and an array unqualified, highly paid consultants. Unauthorized purchasing increased sevenfold, which meant Joseph and his team were not following proper contract procedures. Joseph negotiated contracts in violation of state law, and he could not account for the spending of $1.5 million on a no-bid contract that he awarded to someone he knew and brought with him from another school district. He repeatedly misled the school board and split contracts so that they would not come to the board for approval. In addition, our district endured what was described as a “morale crisis,” and the school board had to hire an independent firm to assess the district’s new Human Resources department. It concluded that employee morale was the lowest it had ever been and that Joseph’s team was engaging in “unconscionable” practices. By the time Joseph left, the state recommended revocation of his state license. This is all just the tip of the iceberg. Here is a short summary of just some of the problems we encountered: https://www.newschannel5.com/news/newschannel-5-investigates/what-you-need-to-know-about-shawn-josephs-controversies There is much more. I have never before or after experienced such corruption and dysfunction.

Shawn Joseph’s severance agreement included a gag order for school board members to prevent us from speaking even truthfully about our experiences. Three of us had to sue to remove the clause from agreement, and we just won the lawsuit. That is the reason I am able to reach out to you today.

I just attended an education conference in your lovely city, and I hate to see Philadelphia go down the same path. I would be happy to speak with any of you about our experiences. Please feel free to call or email me.

Amy Frogge

Tom Ultican, retired teacher of advanced mathematics and physics in California, is now a significant chronicler of the Destroy Public Education movement. He attended the recent national conference of the Network for Public Education in Philadelphia and recapitulates the excitement we shared at being in person after a 2-year hiatus.

After every conference, attendees say, “This was the best one yet.” They enjoy meeting people who are doing the same work to fight privatization of their public schools. By the end of the conference, attendees say they feel energized, hopeful, and happy to know that they are not alone.

I urge you to read Tom’s post. You will get a sense of the embarrassment of riches available to attendees.

I should add that the Nebraska Save Our Schools group shared the Phyllis Bush Award for Grassroots Activism. Nebraska is one of the few states that has managed to protect its public schools and keep out both charters and vouchers, despite being a Red State.

The Pastors for Texas Children, a co-winner of the award, has repeatedly blocked vouchers in the Texas Legislature and has consistently fought for funding for public schools. PTC has opened chapters in other Red states, where they mobilize clergy to support public schools.

A high point for me was interviewing “Little Stevie” Van Zandt, a legendary rock star and actor (“The Sopranos”), who is dedicated to getting the arts into schools, not as an extra, but across the curriculum. we had a wonderful conversation. He has funded lesson plans based on rock and roll, available free at his website TeachRock.

All of the general sessions were taped. I will post them when they become available.

Don’t believe the hype about charter ”success.” As the Network for Public Education has documented in several reports, the failure and closure rate of charter schools is high. in Philadelphia, the district has battled to close two low-performing charter schools for years and only now is on the cusp of regaining their students.

A state panel on Tuesday upheld the Philadelphia school board’s decision not to renew two charter schools, setting a course for ASPIRA Olney High School and ASPIRA Stetson Middle School to return to district control later this year.

The move comes nearly six years after the Philadelphia School District’s charter schools office first recommended that the district cut ties with ASPIRA Olney and Stetson for academic, operational, and financial reasons. The school board eventually voted against renewing the charters in 2019 over strong objections from the powerful Hispanic nonprofit that has run them since 2010 and 2011.

The charter nonrenewals mark the first time the district will take back control of schools it had turned over under the Renaissance Schools initiative, a school-turnaround approach launched in 2010 that the district has backed away from in recent years. (In 2016, Scholar Academies abruptly surrendered control of Kenderton Elementary, citing the high cost of educating its large special-education population; the district took back Kenderton and still runs it.)

ASPIRA officials said they plan to file court paperwork to overturn Tuesday’s ruling of the Charter Appeals Board, which voted 4-1 in both the Olney and Stetson cases. Among those voting in favor was Jennifer Faustman, CEO of the Belmont Charter Network in Philadelphia. Tom Killion, a former Republican state senator from Delaware County, was the lone no vote

Olney, a high school that enrolls more than 1,700 students at Front and Duncannon, and Stetson, which educates 860 students in grades 5 through 8 on B Street in Kensington, will remain open in their current buildings, district and board officials emphasized. Students’ educations will not be interrupted

The old School Reform Commission gave struggling Olney and Stetson to ASPIRA as part of its Renaissance initiative that tapped outside providers to run schools. According to a hearing officer’s report, while ASPIRA made progress in improving the schools’ climates, it didn’t live up to the academic promises it made and had financial shortcomings, too.

ASPIRA has fought to maintain control of the schools, which have been in limbo since their charters expired more than five years ago. In 2019, the company sued the School District, accusing it of unlawfully delaying charter renewal decisions to pressure the company into agreeing to conditions like enrollment caps.

A federal judge ruled in favor of the district last year, determining that while ASPIRA was selected to manage the two schools, there was no contract between the company and the district.

ASPIRA, which manages a total of five charter schools in the city, including a cyber charter, has also faced scrutiny from state officials. It was the subject of an auditor general’s report in 2018 that highlighted significant increases in payments the charters made to ASPIRA as an example of flaws in Pennsylvania’s charter school law.

It has taken the district six years to regain control of these two charters, whose charters were not renewed. And the charters are again appealing the decision to turn over their students and buildings to the district.

The Network for Public Education will host its annual conference in Philadelphia on March 19-20. The conference has been repeatedly delayed by COVID. We now feel confident that we can meet safely in person. Please join us!

Carol Burris writes:

We have reopened registration for our conference to be held in Philadelphia on March 19 and 20. We believe that when the current Omicron surge subsides, we will enjoy a safe and healthy conference. We appreciate that so many of you have remained registered these past two years.

If you previously registered for the conference, and never asked for a refund, there is no need to register again.

However, you must register for your hotel room. You can do that here. These are discounted rooms and they will go quickly.

If you have not registered, or, canceled your registration, you can register here.

Because we need to preorder food, which is a large part of the registration cost, no refunds will be issued after February 21.

In order to attend, you must be fully vaccinated. That is a requirement of both the hotel and the Network for Public Education. At this point, there is also a mask mandate in place (surgical or KN95 please).

It has been a difficult and long haul for all of us. Hopefully, we are nearing the pandemic’s end. We can’t wait to see you again! Let’s draw strength from each other this March.


New Board Members Welcomed by NPE and NPE Action

President Diane Ravitch is happy to announce that Cassandra Ulbrich and Keith Benson have joined the Network for Public Education Board while Gloria Evans Nolan joined the NPE Action Board.

You can read about these three accomplished public education advocates below. Last month we announced the addition of Georgina Cecilia Pérezto the NPE Board. We thank retiring Board members Denisha Jones, Susan Ochshorn, and Roxanazww as Marachi for their service.

Casandra E. Ulbrich, Ph.D.was elected to the Michigan State Board of Education in 2006 and re-elected in 2014 to serve a second eight-year term expiring January 1, 2023. She serves as the President of the Board.

Casandra has spent the majority of her career in higher education administration, currently serving as the Vice-Chancellor for Institutional Advancement at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. Prior to joining UM-Dearborn, Casandra was the Vice President for College Advancement and Community Relations at Macomb Community College for eight years, where she oversaw the college’s marketing and communications, public relations, cultural affairs, and foundation, as well as serving as the College’s Title IX Coordinator. Casandra began her career as a Press Secretary to the former U.S. House Democratic Whip David Bonior, acting as the official spokesperson for the Congressman.

Dr. Keith E. Benson is the author of Education Reform and Gentrification in the Age of #CamdenRising: Public Education and Urban Redevelopment in Camden, NJ (2019) and is currently the President of the Camden Education Association. A dedicated community and public education advocate, Keith taught in Camden City public schools for fourteen years prior to being elected to the Association’s presidency. Keith is also an adjunct professor at Rutgers University-Camden.


Gloria Evans Nolan has joined the NPE Action Board.

Grounded in her experience as a St. Louis Public School graduate and parent, Gloria is now serving as Interim Parent Liaison in the St. Louis Public School district. She has over 17 years of experience working in non-profits and fostering excellence in the lives of young people through her work supporting mentoring teams, managing school partnerships, and developing volunteers and caregivers.

Nolan holds a Masters’s Degree in college student personnel administration and a Bachelor of Science in therapeutic recreation. Gloria is a fierce advocate, championing equity and transformational policy change in true public education. Gloria draws her inspiration from being a devoted wife of Kevin Nolan (also known as Cocoa Santa) and the mother of Dylan & Evan.


There is no doubt that the privatizers will continue their fight to destroy public education in 2022. We already see voucher bills introduced and we are watching for charter expansion legislation as well. You can be assured that we will keep on fighting for our democratically governed public schools, the pillar of our democracy. Happy New Year and we hope to see you in March!!

Thanks for all you do,

Executive Director


The Network for Public Education is a 501 (c)(3) organization. You can make a tax deductible donation here.

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Lisa Haver, parent activist in Philadelphia, was thrilled when the state relinquished control of the school board in 2018. Now Philadelphia has mayoral control of its schools. Haver soon discovered that the appointed school board is not interested in parent engagement and shuts parent voices down.

She wrote in The Philadelphia Inquirer:

Just weeks into the new school year, Philadelphia school communities find themselves already dealing with chaos. Parents, students, and school staff, many navigating toxic flood waters after a devastating storm, were not notified of the district’s decision to open schools late until two hours after the first bell.

Students at several district schools had to avoid mountains of trash left in schoolyardson their first day back.

The district has revised bell schedules and school calendars with a stunning disregard for the needs of parents.

In June, when the Inquirer Editorial Board asked City Councilmembers what their priorities would be for their 2021-22 session, education was barely mentioned — not even by the Chair of Council’s Education Committee.

Another recent editorial lamented the erosion of trust between Councilmembers’ constituents and city institutions including those between the school community and the Board of Education that “have been exacerbated during the pandemic which Council could ameliorate by finding ways to navigate and, hopefully, reduce.”

But that doesn’t seem to be a concern for councilmembers. Some have joined protests at schools where teachers refused to enter toxic buildings. But other than one letter signed by a handful of councilmembers sent last February, Council has been largely silent on the silencing of their constituents by the board.

Haver points out that neither Superintendent William Hite nor his staff was held accountable for the fiasco at Benjamin Franklin High School, when two schools merged. Construction costs soared from $10 million to over $50 million. Students and staff were forced to endure an unsafe learning environment while construction proceeded. Accountability for multiple failures? None.

Nor did anyone on the board respond when the district’s principals endorsed a vote of no confidence in Superintendent Hite for his lack of leadership during the pandemic.

Mayoral control enables the silencing of parent voices.

Avi Wolfman-Arent writes at the Philadelphia PBS website WHYY about the uncomfortable dilemma of the “school choice movement.” At least some of the choice champions had not come to grips with the fact that their movement was funded by Trump supporters. Perhaps the reckoning might have caused them to wonder if they were being used. It’s easy to forget–or perhaps never realize–that the school choice movement was created by Southern segregationists, borrowing the rhetoric of libertarian economist Milton Friedman. It i worth pondering why and how the Democratic Party abandoned its longstanding belief in equitable, well-resourced public schools as a common good.

He begins:

When Philadelphia-area mega-donors Jeff and Janine Yass made headlines recently for their contributions to Republican politicians — some of whom tried to overturn the presidential election — it stirred up a familiar debate in local education circles.

The Yass family has a long history of donating to Republican politicians and conservative causes. They also are among the largest donors to Pennsylvania’s school choice movement.

Therein lies a dilemma that, for some Democrats who support school choice, has caused increasing bouts of self-reflection.

On the ground, many charter school employees and school choice advocates are left-of-center, motivated by a desire to shake up an educational system that they see as not acting urgently enough to help low-income students of color.

But the movement’s growth — and success — has long relied on the political and financial capital of conservatives, who see school choice as a way to inject free-market thinking into the educational bureaucracy.

None of this is new.

What’s new is the reckoning forced by the Trump era, culminating in a violent insurrection that was fomented by Republican lawmakers — carried out with symbols of the Confederacy — who, on other days, could be a charter advocate’s best ally.

“For a period of time, this coalition was able to exist without some of the tensions we’re talking about threatening to rip it apart,” said Mike Wang, a veteran of the Philadelphia education scene who once headed a leading school choice advocacy group that lobbied in Harrisburg.

Will this unusual alliance survive? Can it find new political strength under an administration promising reconciliation and unity? Or will it disintegrate in an era of increasing political polarity?

At what point do well-meaning liberals understand that there is a fundamental contradiction between the free market and equity. The free market produces winners and losers, not equity.

The former chief financial officer of a now-closed charter school in North Philadelphia was charged with embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from the school for which he was responsible. The school is now closed. The money was diverted from teachers, their pensions, and from students.

A former employee of a now-closed North Philadelphia charter school has been charged with embezzling more than $350,000.

Darnell Smith, the former chief financial officer of Khepera Charter School, misused the funds while earning a six-figure salary, Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced Friday.

On Smith’s watch, more than $200,000 was withheld from Khepera teachers’ paychecks for retirement funds, the attorney general said. But the money was never deposited into the Public School Employee Retirement System. An additional $370,000 in employer contributions was also never contributed to the system, Shapiro said...

Smith’s failure to make the pension payments ultimately forced the Pennsylvania Department of Education to withhold payments to Khepera. Eventually, the school was unable to pay teachers or its rent.