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New budget worries lead SRC to delay charter renewal and modification votes

By Benjamin Herold on Apr 17, 2012 12:07 AM
Photo: Benjamin Herold

Chairman Pedro Ramos addressed the District's budget concerns during Monday's SRC meeting. 

by Benjamin Herold
for the Notebook and WHYY/NewsWorks

Alarmed by new threats to the financial stability of the District, Chairman Pedro Ramos said Monday that the School Reform Commission will likely delay an expected April 19 vote on 17 charters that have been recommended for renewal, as well as an unspecified number of charter modification requests.

Ramos said that he still expects the SRC to vote Thursday on District staff’s recommendations to not renew the charters of three schools: Arise Academy, Hope, and Truebright Science Academy.

But he said he was looking for a different process to handle the other renewals and suggested that it may require many more SRC meetings to resolve.

“I don’t know yet what the answer is for Thursday,” Ramos said. “The level of unpredictability now is too great to do everything in an all-or-nothing, thumbs-up or thumbs-down" vote.

One option, he said, might be a “rolling” process for considering charter renewals before a state-mandated June 30 deadline. Charters could be asked to negotiate conditions of their renewals in advance of a vote. The goal, said Ramos, would be to bring the highest-performing charters up for a vote first.

“Our priority is quality,” he said.

But at the same time, Ramos stressed, the District’s dire financial straits can’t be ignored.

The SRC is still seeking tens of millions of dollars in cuts or savings to balance the District’s books this year. Officials have projected a shortfall of at least $189 million for next year. 

The biggest financial wild card may be a recent ruling by Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court that the District illegally imposed an enrollment cap on the Walter D. Palmer Leadership Learning Partners Charter School. If other charters follow suit and ignore their enrollment caps, the District’s charter school tab could soar uncontrollably.

Ramos attacked the court’s decision, calling it a “big unknown” and saying the SRC may decide to appeal.

“I think it’s a wrongly decided case,” Ramos said. “I think it poses significant risks to the School District. I think it poses significant risks to the charter school movement. The risks are not limited to Philadelphia.”

Ramos added that a recent ruling by the state’s tax equalization board could mean an additional $30 million hit to the District. In addition, Mayor Nutter’s proposal to reassess city property values is being held up in City Council, making a hoped-for infusion of $94 million from the city now seem uncertain. 

While the new financial uncertainties have left the SRC hesitant to commit to charter renewals and modifications, Ramos said that voting on the three non-renewal recommendations could move forward because they are the beginning of a longer process. A vote for non-renewal would trigger a formal hearing process that could take months.

Besides these three and 17 charters recommended by staff for renewal, five other charters up for renewal are still under review.

At Monday’s meeting, vocal supporters passionately defended two of the charter schools now facing closure, Hope and Truebright.

Reports outlining the District’s case for closure, along with site visit reports from an outside auditor and some charters’ rebuttals, were posted online Monday – a first for the District.

District staff found fault with the three schools in areas besides their academics. Arise Academy scored unacceptable in three of the four areas covered by the District evaluation: academics, financial health, and governance and compliance.

Two charters – Boys Latin and KIPP West Philadelphia – were judged deficient in one area, but were nonetheless recommended for renewal.

Thomas Darden, District deputy chief for strategic programs  outlined the District’s process for reaching its recommendations, which started last August.

“We have reams of data that we have evaluated on each of the schools,” said Darden. 

But supporters of the schools recommended for non-renewal were critical of the process, questioning the thoroughness of the site visits and the accuracy of statements in the District’s staff reports.

While the District grapples with its financial uncertainties, some charters are also concerned that delays in the renewal decisions could make it difficult to plan.

Anuj Gupta, the executive director of Mt. Airy USA, told the SRC that his organization is working with Wissahickon Charter School to arrange financing for a new facility.

“If the decision for notification [on Wissahickon’s renewal] is going to be postponed, we need to know that,” Gupta said. “We need to know whether our project is dead.”

Chairman Ramos acknowledged such concerns, but said the SRC is caught between a rock and a hard place.

“I think it’s now unreasonable to expect us to just vote on renewals without knowing in advance … what it means system-wide,” he said. 

“We have less room for error because we’re broke.”

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Comments (42)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 17, 2012 5:08 am

Charters should not be renewed. The District is in a financial crises.

Submitted by John (not verified) on April 17, 2012 8:19 pm

Charters should not be renewed because they're a scam not because the district is in a financial mess. The mess was orchestrated by Corbett and the other Tea Party miscreants like Scott Walker.

Submitted by Joseph Proietta (not verified) on April 18, 2012 1:55 pm

John, the charter law was reformed in 2008 when Ed Rendell (D) was governor and there was no tea-party. The caps were ended then, not now. The slow court system just made the ruling now. Who are you, John? You have a lot to say from behind that mask. I'm Joe Proietta; who do you represent , and what's your name?

Submitted by Joseph Proietta (not verified) on April 17, 2012 11:25 am

Chairman Ramos is surely between a rock and hard place, but he should look squarely at his predecessors on the SRC and SDP administration who callously ignored the law in 2008. This should be no surprise to him or or the SDP that caps were removed FIVE YEARS ago! When the Charter School Law was reformed the SDP jumped on the parts they liked like cutting transportation payments to charter schools and restrictions on CS CEOs, but ignored parts they didn't like such as enrollment caps. The courts and department of education have been telling them for five years that they are wrong, and they continue to waste tax payer money fighting. Now, Mr. Ramos acts surprised. I know he's new at the job, so maybe he should take at hard look at the SDP law department and why they ignored five years of warnings that this day of reckoning would come.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 17, 2012 11:22 am

Mr. Prioietta: Wasn't your school - Community Academy of Philadelphia Charter School - suppose to close? Financial improprieties, nepotism, very low test scores, etc? Apparently the charter law is working for you and your family. If the SDP would actually close schools like Community Academy - then, maybe, more people would be open to charter that provide real alternatives for Philadelphia students.

Submitted by Joseph Proietta (not verified) on April 17, 2012 11:09 am

Isn't it strange that I'm willing to give my name and put my reputation on the line and speak the truth, not hide behind "anonymous." I'm proud of Community Academy and its 32 years of service to the City of Philadelphia. We have done more, sacrificed more, and accomplished more than many of the acclaimed new comers who use Bush-era tests, admissions processes designed to put-off the neediest, expulsion, and out-right cheating (see the recent papers) to be hailed "no excuses," high performing schools. We work in the trenches not for the Wharton School or the Gates Foundation.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 17, 2012 12:32 pm

we cannot afford a charter school movement....they should not renew or expand any charter schools. There is too much on the line

Submitted by Tom (not verified) on April 17, 2012 3:09 pm

Charter school manage to do more with less. It cost more to keep public schools open. Look into the numbers for yourself. You will see that public schools have a much higher operating cost. There is no need to pay a superintendent, district people and so on. The money is spent in to the schools, not 440 N Broad!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 18, 2012 1:53 am

Uhh, you do realize that school district and SRC staff time is spent analyzing and dealing with charters, right?

Submitted by Joseph Proietta (not verified) on April 17, 2012 2:12 pm

Yo, "anonymous" give your name! It's so easy to hide behind the internet and make accusations, say charter schools aren't worth the money from your hiding place behind "anonymous." If you think charter schools are so bad, then have the courage to say who you are and your affiliation. I'm tired of cowards who use the comments and internet sites to spew venom without saying who they are. Mr. Ramos had the courage to state his concerns about the SDP's financial situation, the courts, and charter schools, and I responded respectfully with my name. Who are you? Every time charter schools are mentioned "anonymous" or some made up name attacks us.

Submitted by John (not verified) on April 17, 2012 5:58 pm

Yo, When PublicEducational Money is given to private persons or companies, bad things happen. Until that is corrected in a concrete, transparent way, clear thinking people will see the problems inherent in charters. Your particular charter may function above board but you and I know of LOTS of them that don't. They're just an easy money making business for lots of operators and their political buddies. Abuse of the have nots is all it is.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 17, 2012 7:12 pm

Community Academy Charter School has been under federal investigation -

Submitted by Joseph Proietta (not verified) on April 17, 2012 8:20 pm

Maybe the City Controller should have been man enough to withdraw that nonsense he published. He called a group of "Smiths" nepotism!! They weren't related. The SDP inspector general told him there were no double dipping employees, and his accounting skills left much to be desired. The report was the work of interns. We asked it be revised, but Philly politics is all about "anonymous" making unfounded accusations, and politicians taking cheap shots. You can say anything about anybody and hide behind the wall of the Internet and the explotating press. Yeah, grab a channel 6 story from 2009 (it's 2012) and repeat it over and over but hide your identity Mr Anonimous.

Submitted by John (not verified) on April 17, 2012 8:52 pm

Gee, I hope you didn't teach spelling.

Submitted by Joseph Proietta (not verified) on April 18, 2012 1:28 pm

You're so clever, Mr./Ms. ? Never typed on a cell phone? Wouldn't know, because no one knows who you are, but you take shots at people while hiding behind the internet. Courageous one you are!

Submitted by John (not verified) on April 18, 2012 4:43 pm

No idea what you're talking about. Hope you feel better. I was just reporting the facts, pesky little suckers that they are.

Submitted by Joseph Proietta (not verified) on April 18, 2012 5:22 pm

John, you still won't say who you are. Pesky little fact that you hide behind a common first name (could be made up) and relate "facts," but don't have the guts to identify yourself. So easy isn't it to present half-truths and wild opinions and not have to face up to them. You and the rest of the cheap shot bunch love going on blogs and comment pages, hiding your faces and your names. What have you accomplished? Have you put your neck out to help Philly kids? Or just blather attacks on people who take risks to help the community. Come out, come out, wherever you are! A person of integrity doesn't hide behind a mask. Who are you and your buddies really speaking for?

Submitted by John (not verified) on April 18, 2012 6:58 pm

Yo, Joe--are you writing from jail? John Turpin.

Submitted by Ms. Anonymous (not verified) on April 17, 2012 8:11 pm

You obviously can't take criticism. Your school was going to be closed. You had a major campaign, thanks to some local politicians and a former SRC member, to stay open. You had to restructure. You also were investigated by the feds. Instead of being so defensive, admit there are problems and try to convince the next SRC that you should stay open. In 2011, Community Academy did not make AYP in one category - Your scores are much lower than neighborhood schools and you are K-12! So, why are you still open when SDP schools are being closed????

Submitted by John (not verified) on April 17, 2012 9:28 pm

Ooh,Ooh,Ooh, I have the answer, Mr. Kotter---It's a charter and charters for the most part operate independently from the rules of engagement by which real Public Schools operate.
I agree--this guy is as pure as the driven snow even though he isn't. If the crooked pols who opened it, are out of favor now, bye, bye !!

Submitted by Joseph Proietta (not verified) on April 18, 2012 11:05 am

Dear John and AnonYmous, while you still hide behind unidentifiable names, it's so easy to criticize when you never have to put yourselves on the line. Are you the union, district pawns, or just charter school haters? You can keep spewing the same lies that charter schools don't have to follow the same laws as "real" goverment-run public schools, but that ending with NCLB. Get over it. You're defending a failed system that is deep in debt, rudder-less, and violent (see Pulitzer Prize). And by the way, my name is Joseph Proietta and I'm CEO of Community Academy and proud of it...who are you?

Submitted by Joseph Proietta (not verified) on April 18, 2012 1:23 pm

Meant "ended" (with NCLB). Wouldn't want the "anonymous" or "John" "haters" to jump on this! "Perfection is mine saith the Lord" and anonymous and John. But truth telling, that's for people without masks.

Submitted by Joseph Proietta (not verified) on April 18, 2012 2:54 pm

"John," "John," "John," you're defending the SDP's performance. No one in Philadelphia, the region or Commonwealth really believes the SDP is successful. Pulitzer for reports of violence, state investigation of PSSA cheating, kneeling down to kiss the ring of Bill Gates, new revelations monthly on debt (this goes back to Vallas days), the Ackerman debacle, no one really in charge today, SDP departments running themselves without a leader, the mayor/council/state not committed because they really don't believe, venture capitalists and Mastery Schools running the Great School Compact, a union is disarry...why do you think parents are flocking to all kinds of charter schools? The only hope the government-run SDP has is to play hardball and attack charter schools, because given a choice most parents will choose a charter school over the SDP no matter what PSSA scores or SPI scores or other metric the SDP comes up with. It is common sense.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 18, 2012 8:31 pm

If you knew how vindictive the Philadelphia School District is (remember Hope Moffet?) then you'd know why people have to use anonymous names. What do you or Ramos have to lose by using your names? It's those who dare to speak out against the ongoing corruption in this school district that have to worry about retaliation.

Submitted by Joseph Proietta (not verified) on April 18, 2012 8:44 pm

What's that got to do with attacking charter schools or me. We can't fire you! And it's doing the SDP's bidding anyway! Get real.

Submitted by roxborough19128 (not verified) on April 17, 2012 2:58 pm

While I'm neither for nor against Charters, I think the District as a whole SHOULD look closer at the Charters. As much as people may not like it, the district as a whole and its viability are of the utmost importance in most eyes. If charters that are in question, such as cheating or trying to move to a new location without funding in place, have to close to help keep the district running, then it may have to come to that. The district and SRC have to look at the whole and how all the children in the city will be affected. I agree that alot of the problems are from the previous years. But keep that in mind. They have to make some tough decisions and not everyone is going to be happy.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 17, 2012 3:15 pm

Closing charters will accomplish what exactly? All of those students (and trust there are MANY) would then flood the SDP schools and guess what that would mean? More $$ money needed for teachers and resources for those schools unless we planned to just toss a life jacket to students and just say sink or swim. Is that what we want to do? Have maybe 60 kids in a class and then have these "high academic standards" that we expect to happen? Even the greatest teacher can't handle more than 33 kids in a class. So we should send studentsfrom a good performing charter to a bad performing neighborhood school and think we will have good outcomes? You pay the bill either way. Either sooner or later.

How about closing deficient schools whether public or charter? Some people here are saying close all charters without thinking. I understand some people feel unnecessarily threatened by charter schools but there are many charter schools that are doing great things for students. Sure there are bad apples out there but that is in any situation in life. I understand some people's agenda is to see charters go down but in reality think of how many kids that would affect and people who work at schools and value their mission and school culture. Stop being so eager to tear down institutions and think about the outcome.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 17, 2012 5:21 pm

I am so tired of the stance for charter schools, when in essence, the public schools would do just fine if they got the same support. Inexperienced teachers, who are low on the pay scale is what charter schools go after. Put the extra money into better professional development, supplies and support for teachers, and I am certain that the schools in the SDP will fare just fine. We need the numbers, not the charters. I am eagerly waiting the demise of charter schools. They are a farce, and the truth will eventually come out.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 17, 2012 7:43 pm

What support? Charter schools get less money than public schools. You mean people supporting expanding charters? You mention charters chasing inexperienced teachers but then claim that public schools get less support. If charters got all the support wouldn't they have the so-called best and most experienced teachers all the time?

There was a time before charters and many public schools failed, some succeeded. What farce? I don't agree with taking over a random school slapping XYZ Charter on it and expecting a miracle but most from the ground up charter schools are anything but a farce. They serve, they educate and yes some do it better than the public schools. . I know of charter schools that do staff veteran and experienced teachers. It's okay to point out many seek young, inexperienced teachers but to say "that's what charter schools go after" is a blanket statement and not always true.

Submitted by John (not verified) on April 17, 2012 8:31 pm

In this format, blanket statements are used as they should be. NOT every single charter is crooked but jeez, just look at the facts, will ya? Corporations didn't give a crap about the inner city kids until the reality of making money off them became apparent and legal. For the very most part, all charters are exactly the same in the sense of their business model.

Submitted by Joseph Proietta (not verified) on April 18, 2012 8:12 pm

There is no format in which "blanket statements" should be used. They are the sign of the uniformed mind or the person with a hidden agenda (and identity). The "business model" of all charter schools is not the same. Shame on you, whoever you are, to lump everyone into your little mind's empty bowl. Formats like this seem to be for cowards to hide behind anonymity. Learn a bit about the topic before you show off your ignorance.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 18, 2012 9:26 pm

Yo Dude----Run that video of the Feds' bust on your so called school, such as it was.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 17, 2012 8:57 pm

So true. It is so sad that my school doesn't have resources to teach our students. We are working with the bare can we raise test scores or educate our children if we don't have the resources. It is so sad. I am thinking seriously about leaving education. I can't help my students, not because they don't want my help, but because I don't have the resources to help them be successful. So very sad....don't know how much longer I can be a part of this. It all comes down to money and the kids lose, every day the kids lose.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 17, 2012 8:58 pm

my students are human beings, not corporate possessions. When will all this end?

Submitted by John (not verified) on April 17, 2012 9:41 pm

NOT until PEOPLE stop it. The New York and Chicago Unions are going ape shit over it but here in Philly, Jordan is shocked, I said shocked everyday by what he sees. Did I say shocked???!!! NO ACTION, though.It makes clear thinking people, of which I am one, question Jordan's motives for being so quiet in defense of the kids and the PFT. Tell me where I'm wrong.

Submitted by MBA to M'ed Mom (not verified) on April 18, 2012 10:38 pm

Please stay in education! A teacher who cares can and does make a difference. Think of how schools were in the south during segregation, no money, no resources and a system that had no intention of improving. But kids like my dad, with teachers who cared, became successful. A good teacher really makes a difference. Our kids need teachers who care and are invested in their future.

As a mom, I want my child to have teachers who care. That matters the most, and my child will learn and succeed. I no longer have a lot of resources as a parent, but I do have my will and determination that despite my lack of resources, I will adjust and fight for the best for my child. Don't let the lack of resources keep you from teaching, a teachers creativity and ability to engage a student into a life time love of learning is what I as a parent hope for my child.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 17, 2012 4:19 pm

Is the vote on Renaissance School charter matches also postponed?

Submitted by Erika Owens (not verified) on April 18, 2012 12:38 pm

No, as I understand it, that is still scheduled for Thursday.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 18, 2012 1:34 am

Jerry Jordan is the worst union president at the worst possible time.His inaction on almost all issues, except when in the public eye and he can gain publicity, is the reason the District now and for previous years get away with whatever they want.

The lack of ability on the PFT's part allows the District to play out why they illegally disregard contracts, policies, rules, precendant ,past practices,verbal agreements,etc.

Most if not all members of this union sadly are going be without a decent contract or job in the not too distant future as the PFT sits there and continues to act "shocked" by what is going on. However, Jordan and his PFT officers will be retired (since many are at or very close to retirement age now) by then and could careless.

The PFT needs honest,caring,strong leadership which is totally lacking presently.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 18, 2012 1:19 am

* I meant precedent, not the misspelled word precendant,in second paragraph

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 18, 2012 10:27 pm

Can we also bring up the fact that there are many excellent neighborhood public schools and that perception plays into the reasons many parents flee to the charters-they are under the belief that they are safer and academically superior. Well study after study has shown that public students test at the same rate and in some instances BETTER than charter students (not saying that there aren't excellent charters) but the perception makes parents fear public schools. My children attend a wonderful neighborhood school (A.L FitzPatrick) but it pains me to see the cuts that the principal has to make to stay on budget even if it means we won't have books for next year...BOOKS! But the SRC wants more and more charters...why? When is enough enough? I heard a rumor (and will say its a rumor) that another charter is coming to North Catholic. why? Let's invest in the neighborhood schools because let's face it...charters aren't open to everyone, its a lottery and a "who you know" system so what happens to the students who academically are superior but can't make the cut? According to the charter advocates we sacrifice them on the charter alter? no! how about make every school a prominate destination school!

Submitted by Crystal (not verified) on September 4, 2014 9:38 am
Really, this is not a very strange thing, I'd signed, but not anonymous, I was in Philadelphia education services for 32 years, and I am very proud we have done more, sacrifice more, we do not cheat.  TRAMADOL ONLINE ULTRAM

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