An Open Letter From PCAPS Leaders
With charter school advocates pressing for a new round of expansion there is a need for those who would lead Philadelphia to address what this will mean for public education in our city.
We believe the following points need to be recognized:
1) Charter expansion comes at a cost. This year, charter schools will cost the district $750 million—one third of the district’s school budget. Charter schools represent huge stranded costs and make it nearly impossible for the school district to plan and assess the savings that an economy of scale brings. This is occurring at a time when the District is facing an ongoing deficit and school budgets are going without adequate staff, classroom supplies and academic offerings to give our children a high quality education. Fraud, lack of transparency and mismanagement are serious problems in the charter sector because of a lack of regulation. Thirty million dollars have been lost as a result and this is surely the tip of a large iceberg. No further expansion should be allowed until a serious regulatory regime is established.
2) There is no compelling evidence that the growth of charter school sector has produced a school system that has better outcomes for students. Given that traditional public schools have been starved of resources, it is not surprising that many parents have opted for charter schools. However, like regular public schools, charter performance varies considerably with poverty being the single greatest predictor. Over the last two decades, Philadelphia schools moved the needle of student achievement when investments were made in full day kindergarten and lower class size, and in the most recent period have gone backward because of budget cuts.
3) Charter school expansion has increased racial and class segregation and isolation in our schools. Treating education as a commodity and creating a market of winners and losers is contrary to the democratic vision of public schools that provide equality of opportunity. Equity, is every bit as important as choice when it comes to public education.
4) Sustainable community schools are an alternative to both charters and resource starved, traditional public schools. The community schools model emphasizes enlisting parents and the community as partners, making schools hubs for services to families, developing engaging curriculum and restorative practices that nurture positive student behavior. PCAPS is calling for 10% of our schools to become sustainable community schools over the next four years.
With 40 applications for new charters up for SRC approval, it is urgent that candidates and elected officials generally speak out on these issues. We would like to meet with you to share our research and analysis on both charter school fraud prevention and sustainable community schools and hear what you think about these important questions.
Jerry Jordan, President of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers
Gabe Morgan, Director, PA SEIU 32 BJ
Kia Hinton, Parent leader, Board Chair, ACTION United
Raphael Randall, Executive Director, Youth United For Change