This statement is in response to the School Reform Commission special meeting for charter applications February 18th.
“I too believe in OPTIONS. Fair options like being able to send my children to schools that are safe with the basic items are provided like books, nursing, counselors, and adequate staffing. Yet under the current budget you tell me that’s not feasible. Choices that are realistic, not the who you know, closed-door, lottery options that we see in some charters that give families a false sense of exclusivity as if they were a private schools.” -Kendra Brooks, Steel Elementary
It was absolutely fantastic and inspiring to see so many parents who gave strong testimony in support of neighborhood district schools across the city. Parents like, Adam Weaver (Lea, 19139), Melissa Wild (Jackson, 19147), Mollie Michel (Southwark, 19148), and Christine Carlson (Greenfield, 19103), and our own Kendra Brooks (Steel,19140). Their riveting testimonies continue to resonate that charter hyper-expansion comes at the expense of students in all district schools. We do expect that they were heard by the SRC.
Last Wednesday’s meeting was the culmination of many hours of work and many groups coming together. We are proud to see such strong response from Action United, PCAPS, PCCY, YUC, PSU, Caucus of Working Educators, and Alliance of Philadelphia Public Schools.
Though five is not as bad as 10 or 39, it is clear that this district cannot sustain one single new charter school. Without additional money, charter expansion is a zero sum game.
We are glad that charters like Green Woods, MaST, String Theory, and Philadelphia Music and Dance that were set to cannibalize existing public school populations, were overwhelmingly denied.
We want to acknowledge Marjorie Neff, the only experienced educator on the SRC, who voted to deny each charter application. Her votes resounding with all of us who read these charter applications and the subsequent analysis, realizing that each was flawed. There is alarming concern about the large number of abstentions from the remaining commissioners including Chairman Bill Green. It is apparent that the appointed school board is being substantially influenced by these pro-charter corporations. It does not appear that the SRC is at all concerned with our students as they are with their corporate sponsors. Unfortunately, this is only the latest evidence of the lack of transparency from the school commissioners.
This fight is not over, only just starting. SRC has consistently denied a voice for public schools while making everything possible for charters. This approach is demoralizing and financially irresponsible. We have to be vigilant against the back room big money deals that allowed these 5 to be approved. We need to be diligent in the charter appeal process to the state. We need to continue to call out the bribes that allow our district to be sold off piecemeal and our children to subsist in schools where resources are below the ”doomsday” budget levels. All of us: parents, teachers, administrators, community organizers, students must focus on getting Pennsylvania a fair full funding formula for public education to assure that our students receive the thorough and efficient education as the state mandates.