Notes concerns over the Charter Appeal Board’s handling of the appeal process
Harrisburg – This afternoon, the Charter Appeal Board (CAB) met to cast another vote on the fate of Catalyst Academy Charter School, a K-8 college prep school looking to open in Pittsburgh’s East End. Catalyst’s application was approved by the CAB in a vote of 4-2, after a lengthy battle lasting nearly two years.
In November 2017, Catalyst’s leaders submitted a comprehensive application to the Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS) and, after an extensive review, the district recommended that the School Board approve the charter. In February 2018, despite a near-flawless application and a recommendation for approval by the district, the school board unanimously denied Catalyst’s application. After collecting the necessary 2,000 signatures from Pittsburgh residents, Catalyst’s leaders submitted an appeal to CAB and a vote was held in January 2019. The CAB voted 3-2 in favor of awarding Catalyst their charter school but a written decision was never issued. In late April, CAB informed Catalyst that a new vote would need to be taken due to an unknown requirement that a majority of the entire CAB must vote to award a charter and not a simple quorum of members in attendance. Catalyst’s leadership filed an action with the PA Commonwealth Court prior to today’s vote.
The following is a statement from Ana Meyers, Executive Director for the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools (PCPCS), on the actions of the CAB:
“We are thrilled that the Charter Appeal Board (CAB) decided, once again, to overturn the Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS) decision and grant Catalyst Academy Charter School their charter to establish a school in Pittsburgh’s East End. This community is in desperate need of high-quality school choice options because just one in four students are able to read at grade-level and only one in 10 can demonstrate grade-level math skills. We look forward to seeing the success of Catalyst’s students and hope to see the expansion of Pittsburgh’s charter school sector in the future.
That being said, we are extremely concerned with how the CAB and the Pennsylvania Department of Education (which staff’s the CAB) has conducted the appeal process for Catalyst. The vote which took place in January of this year was a valid vote, with Catalyst receiving a majority of the quorum members present, and the discovery of an unknown requirement that all CAB members must cast a vote seemed to be a misuse of power to delay the establishment of new charter school. The Charter School Law is clear, the establishment of a charter school must be based on the merits of the school’s application. Unfortunately, we see time and time again that school districts and CAB/the Department are catering to political pressure from the traditional education establishment groups who are threatened by the parent demand for charter schools.”