PCPCS STATEMENT CONCERNING PHILADELPHIA SCHOOL REFORM COMMISSION’S ACTION TO SUSPEND PARTS OF THE SCHOOL CODE
August 19, 2013
The Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools is extremely disappointed and shocked by the unprecedented, and largely unnoticed, actions taken by the School Reform Commission (SRC) last week to suspend additional elements of the School Code as related to charter schools. Its action is a clear violation of the law and prior court decisions, a slap in the face to General Assembly and the judicial branch of government, and a clear signal that the SRC and the School District of Philadelphia believe they are above the law.
The most recent SRC action does the following:
- Suspends any criteria for determining why or how a charter may be revoked.
- Creates a void in any performance criteria or standard.
- Eliminates the ability of a charter school to stay open while pending an appeal of an SRC decision and effectively eliminates the appeal process.
- Leaves a void in the existence of any criteria for revocation or non-renewal.
- Gives the SRC the absolute power to dictate charter school enrollment caps.
- Suspends the redirection process and mandate for withholding, giving the SRC the power to stop payment to any charter school, at any time, without reason or recourse.
- Completely eliminates transparency in how enrollment increases are awarded to schools.
- Increases the uncertainty of investing in charter schools and impairs their ability to get financing.
This is the most recent in a series of actions to lay the groundwork to potentially kill every independent charter school in the city, regardless of how effective they are in educating children. The SRC put a moratorium on new charter schools in 2007, suspended other parts of the School Code nine months ago, recently sanctioned three new Renaissance schools with staged enrollment expansions, and now has given itself the power to, without criteria, reason, or recourse, unilaterally decide which charter schools live and which ones die.
The SRC has essentially self-appointed itself as the single and unchallenged authority on school issues- outside of the jurisdiction of the courts or federal, state, and local officials. The checks and balances that are fundamental to America’s system of government are now gone in Philadelphia.
This ill-conceived action by the SRC hurts existing schools, crushes the hopes and dreams of thousands of families whose children are stuck on endless waiting lists, and is a clear violation of both the letter of the law and the spirit of the Philadelphia Compact. We entered into the Compact with the hope of working with the SRC and the District to create more and better high-quality educational seats for the children of Philadelphia. It is clear to us now that the real intention of the SRC and the District is to do whatever they want to do, regardless of the input from others.
Finally, it’s important to note that, at the District’s request, we, along with many of the individual charter school leaders in Philadelphia, stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the Superintendent and the Mayor in Harrisburg advocating for more support for the District in its financial crisis. Now that that money has been obtained, the SRC and District are actively positioning to discard those who stood with them. Collaboration, trust, and mutual respect are not concepts understood or practiced by the SRC.