SRC votes to shut three charters, seeks enrollment caps at others
by Oscar Wang
The School Reform Commission has recommended that three charters be closed and has changed its charter renewal process. The change comes in response to a Commonwealth Court ruling that the District cannot impose enrollment caps on charters unless their operators first agree to them in writing.
After the ruling, in a case involving the Walter D. Palmer Leadership Learning Partners Charter School, SRC Chair Pedro Ramos said mutual agreement to enrollment caps would be a prerequisite to renewal.
Ramos cited the "enormous uncertainty in planning for the District" without such agreements.
After delaying a planned April 19 vote on 17 charter renewals recommended by District staff, the SRC scheduled hearings every Friday through June so these charters could present their plans.
Several charter leaders decried the procedural change. But two – Multi-Cultural Academy and Sankofa Academy – came forward at the first Friday session on April 27 and agreed to caps. On May 11, five more schools received new five-year charters, four with expansion agreements.
At its April 19 meeting, the SRC approved staff recommendations to close Arise Academy, Hope Charter, and Truebright Science Academy. The action triggers a public hearing on each closing.
Arise and Hope serve severely at-risk student populations and said they need more time to turn around. In the case of Hope, founded a decade ago, the message did not convince the SRC.
"You have a track record, a long period of time," said Ramos, "so it's harder to say you haven't had the time to figure things out."
Arise, which has new leadership, received some sympathy from SRC members, who seemed ready to work with the school on an alternative plan during the coming academic year.
A multitude of issues surrounded Truebright - its alleged affiliation to a Turkish religious organization, erroneous reporting of data, poor attendance, and a sharp drop in academic performance indicators.
If the SRC votes to reaffirm the closings, the charters can appeal to the state.