Philly Teachers, Professors, Parents and Community Urge SRC to "Stop the 40 Charters"

Want to help in the work to "Stop the 40 Charters"? Email membership@workingeducators.org to join our Organizing Committee!

 

January 29, 2015 

Commissioner William J. Green, Chair

Commissioner Feather Houstoun

Commissioner Farah Jimenez

Commissioner Marjorie Neff

Commissioner Sylvia Simms

Philadelphia School Reform Commission

440 North Broad Street

Suite 101

Philadelphia, PA 191230

 

Re: Charter School Applications

 

Dear Commissioners Green, Houstoun, Jimenez, Neff, and Simms, 

We are a group of Philadelphia educators, community members and parents who would like to testify about the 40 applications for new charter schools that your body is reviewing. We operate on the premise that the goal is for all public schools to provide an excellent, equitable and holistic educational environment for all children. Thus, we implore you not to approve any more charter schools to open in our city at this time.

Looking at finances alone, opening more charters is not a sensible option for our already cash-starved district. As former School Reform Commissioner Joseph Dworetzky has noted in his recent post in The Notebook, the district loses $5,500 per student when they transfer to a charter, and $10,000 per student when they transfer from a parochial or independent school, for an average loss of $7,000 per student. According to Dworetzky, rather than going towards supporting our schools, taxpayer dollars go towards mitigating this loss. In an era where we are already operating on a severe budget deficit, we cannot risk the loss of any more money or resources for our students and teachers.

Academically, existing data about the benefits to a student attending a charter school versus a traditional public school are inconclusive, as are data about student transfer or dropout rate from charter schools, according to a recent report by Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY). Looking at the organizations that have applied to open charter schools in Philadelphia, PCCY notes that the charter schools that these organizations already operate do not reflect the demographic of traditional public schools in the district; there are fewer minority, low-income and English Language Learning (ELL) students on their rosters. Even given this statistic, according to the PCCY report, 48% of applicants’ schools report that fewer than half of the students at the schools they currently operate are on grade level for reading and math. Further, a recent Stanford report found that in reading, as compared to their counterparts in traditional public schools (TPS), 56% of students in charter schools nationally showed no significant difference in academic growth between 2010 and 2011, and while 25% did significantly better, 19% did significantly worse. In math, 40% showed no difference as compared to their TPS counterparts in their scores, while 29% did significantly better and 31% did significantly worse. 

Philadelphia is our nation’s poorest big city; 84% of our students qualify as low-income. Because the data are so inconclusive, it seems that a problematic ideology of experimentation undergirds the district’s willingness to consider increasing the number of charter schools in our city. It is ethically unacceptable to experiment with the education or future of any child, especially those who may come from more challenging backgrounds or circumstances.

As people who teach and learn in Philadelphia’s schools, and as parents, we know that the problem of educational inequity and school failure is much bigger than teachers and schools: it has to do with people’s access to health care, healthy food, steady employment and a reliable income, early childhood education, and clean water and air, amongst other factors. While there seems to be no panacea for the amalgamation of social issues that affect children’s school experiences, increasing the number of charter schools, and thus, competition, in education does not help to solve any of our city’s problems. Former New York City Schools’ Chancellor Joel Klein advocates in the recent documentary The Lottery for parents to improve education in the city by “vot[ing] with their feet”, in other words, for refusing to send their children to neighborhood public schools that are purported to be low-quality. Yet, if a good public education were free and universal, why would parents have to vote or compete at all for their children’s welfare? Rather than increasing competition and exacerbating an already inequitable schooling environment, we advocate for working together to ensure that every child has, at the very least, access to a free and quality education, regardless of which school they attend or which neighborhood they live in. 

Indeed, charter schools in cities across the United States have become vehicles not only for experimentation, but for privatization and advancement of corporate interests. This is a sad distortion of Al Shanker’s original vision: he conceived of charters as independent, non-faith based public schools that could be started by special interest groups who worked alongside traditional public schools to best meet the needs of diverse populations of students, and to maximize the expertise of teachers and administrators.

Because we do not yet have enough data to say whether charter schools operate in the best interest of the youth on their rosters, at this point, Philadelphia doesn't need more charter schools, whatever their brands or track records might be.

What we need is a commitment to strengthen our existing schools. We need leaders to call upon our state to fund all schools fully and equitably. Finally, we need vision that will help us pull our city's schools from the wreckage brought by severe underfunding and into a new phase that will allow us to meet all students' needs and aspirations.

Education is a public good, not a business enterprise. It is time to fulfill the promise of public education, and provide quality schools to all of our city’s students.

Sincerely,

 

Amy Brown, MST, Ph.D.

Educational Anthropologist

Critical Writing Fellow, University of Pennsylvania

Supporting Member of the Caucus of Working Educators

 

Kristin R. Luebbert, M.Ed, MS.Ed

Reading Specialist

School District of Philadelphia

Caucus of Working Educators

 

Anissa Weinraub, M.Ed

English and Theater Arts Teacher

School District of Philadelphia

Caucus of Working Educators

 

Mark Stern, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Department of Educational Studies, Colgate University

Visiting Scholar, Education, Culture, and Society Program

Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania

Supporting Member of the Caucus of Working Educators

 

Madeleine Nist, M.A.

Retired, School District of Philadelphia

Caucus of Working Educators

 

Tamara Anderson, M.Ed

Parent

Lead Faculty

University of Phoenix


Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools

Caucus of Working Educators (Supporting Member/Steering Committee)

 

Nick Palazzolo

Supporting Member of the Caucus of Working Educators

 

Alison McDowell

Parent

Supporting Member of the Caucus of Working Educators

Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools

 

Eileen Duffey Bernt, RN MS

Certified School Nurse

Caucus of Working Educators

Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools

 

Mariana Pardes, M.A.

Research Associate, Villanova University

Resident of Philadelphia

Supporting Member of the Caucus of Working Educators

 

Jody Cohen

Term Professor of Education

Bryn Mawr/Haverford Education Program

 

Susan Clampet-Lundquist, Ph.D.

Parent

Associate Professor

Department of Sociology, Saint Josephs University

 

Encarna Rodriguez

Associate Professor

Department of Educational Leadership

Saint Josephs University

 

Carolyn T. Adams, Ph.D.

Department of Geography and Urban Studies

Temple University

 

Magali Sarfatti-Larson, Ph.D.

Professor of Sociology (Emerita)

Temple University

 

Kelley Collings, M.Ed, MS.Ed

Math & Science Teacher

School District of Philadelphia

Caucus of Working Educators

Teacher Action Group

Teachers Lead Philly

 

Sonia M. Rosen, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

School of Education

Arcadia University

 

Frank Bernt, Ph. D.

Professor

Department of Teacher Education

Saint Josephs University

 

Barbara Ferman, Ph.D

Professor

Department of Political Science

Temple University

 

Sukey Blanc, Ph.D.

Principal Researcher

Creative Research & Evaluation, LLC

 

Elaine Simon, Ph.D.

Co-Director, Urban Studies Program

University of Pennsylvania

 

Jerusha Conner, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Education

Villanova University

 


Rhiannon Maton, M.Ed

Ph.D Candidate, Graduate School of Education

University of Pennsylvania

 

Nina Johnson, PhD

Instructor, Graduate School of Education

University of Pennsylvania

 

Grace Player, M.A.

Ph.D. Candidate, Graduate School of Education

University of Pennsylvania

 

David Hensel

Teacher

School District of Philadelphia

Caucus of Working Educators, PFT

 

Shaw MacQueen

Teacher

School District of Philadelphia

Caucus of Working Educators

 

James Arrington, M.Ed

Ed.D Candidate, Graduate School of Education

University of Pennsylvania

 

Thomas Quinn

Teacher

School District of Philadelphia

Caucus of Working Educators, PFT

 

Jesse Gottschalk, M.S.Ed

Teacher

School District of Philadelphia

Caucus of Working Educators, PFT

 

Kaitlin McCann

Teacher

School District of Philadelphia

PFT

 

Peggy Marie Savage

N.A.A.C.P-A.C.T-S.O Planning Committee

Upward Bound Math & Science Symposium Judge

N.A.A.C.P-A.C.T-S.O Lead Science Judge

W.E. Working Caucus of the P.F.T

P.F.T. Liaison PLN 5/7

E.L.L. Content Friendly Teacher 5th Grade
Philadelphia Writing Project ( E.L.L)

Philadelphia Teachers Convening Executive Team

 

Lisa Hantman

Teacher

School District of Philadelphia

Citizen of Philadelphia

 

Monica Clark, M.S.

Doctoral Student

College of Education

Temple University

Citizen of Philadelphia

 

cc: Dr. William Hite, Superintendent

Paul Kihn, Deputy Superintendent

Matthew Stanski, CFP

Claire Landau, Assistant to the SRC

Sophie Bryan, Director, Strategy Delivery Unit