“Last school year, the School Reform Commission approved Mastery’s bid to take over the Wister School in an unprecedented 11th hour move that went against the recommendation of Superintendent Hite.
Now we know that Mastery engaged in an expensive lobbying campaign to ensure that result, in the process tearing apart a community and subjecting school students and families to the kind of disruption and churn that inflicts lasting harm. School improvement must be based on best practices that benefit students, not who has the most lobbying dollars to spend.
In past years, the School District limited lobbying by entities who are competing to obtain lucrative contracts to manage schools through the Renaissance process. However, last year no such rules were in place, resulting in an explosion of lobbying activity, much of it directly aimed at parents and community members.
We will never have a full picture of how many thousands of dollars Mastery spent to lobby the District, though the expense reports they must now file will detail what outside services they hired. Allied organizations such as Philadelphia School Partnership and its affiliate Philadelphia School Advocacy Partners appeared to be actively working on behalf of this takeover as well, but their actions and expenditures have still not been evaluated publicly.
The Renaissance process for school turnarounds, which has been put on hold as the District undertakes a full review, is untenable. It has degenerated into costly and divisive campaigns that cause lasting damage to school communities and distract us all from our more fundamental mission: to build a system of public schools that increase equity and educate all children.
In addition, this entire ugly process underscores the need for an end to the School Reform Commission, as well as the adoption of clear and robust rules on ethics and conflict of interest.”