Charter School: Philadelphia School Reform Commission actions are unconstitutional
February 28, 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PHILADELPHIA – On Friday, February 28, 2014, West Philadelphia Achievement Charter Elementary School (West Phila. ACES) filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania asking the Court to declare recent actions taken by the School Reform Commission (SRC) of the School District of Philadelphia illegal and unconstitutional, and to immediately suspend the implementation and enforcement of these actions.
On August 15, 2013, the SRC stated its desire to “remove the limitations on its powers” and voted to suspend provisions of the Charter School Law, including the provision that prohibits the School District from capping enrollment without the agreement of charter schools. This resolution, known as SRC-1, also suspended the right of charter schools to appeal funding decisions to the Pennsylvania Department of Education and to appeal the revocation or non-renewal of a charter to the State Charter School Appeal Board. The District subsequently threatened the revocation or non-renewal of the charter of any school that would not agree to all of the District’s terms.
On February 21, 2014, the District proposed a new charter school policy that attempts to codify SRC-1 and effectively rewrites the Charter School Law for charter schools in Philadelphia, a direct violation of the Pennsylvania Constitution, which reserves lawmaking authority to the legislature.
West Phila. ACES’s charter was renewed in 2011, however its renewal was conditioned on an enrollment cap dictated by the SRC. The lawsuit filed by the school seeks a declaration that the suspensions made within SRC-1 and the District’s Proposed Charter Schools Policy are unconstitutional as unlawful delegations of legislative power. The suit also asks the Supreme Court to immediately stop the SRC from implementing or enforcing SRC-1 as it relates to charter schools.
“The attempted transfer of power from the legislature to the SRC without any standards, guidance, or accountability is unconstitutional,” stated Robert W. O’Donnell, one of the attorneys filing the lawsuit on behalf of West Phila. ACES. “The SRC has used that power to suspend the law, taking independence away from charter schools and giving more power to itself.”
Dr. Stacy Phillips the CEO and Founder of West Philadelphia ACES stated that “this was our last resort. Our attempts to negotiate a signable agreement have thus far been to no avail. We believe that the school district is unwilling to negotiate in good faith because of the action taken in August. ”
West Philadelphia Achievement Charter Elementary School was established in 2001 and educates approximately 650 students in West Philadelphia.
The lawsuit was filed by Robert W. O’Donnell and Jeffrey R. Stacey of O’Donnell Associates, a Philadelphia-based law firm that specializes in representing charter schools.