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SRC approves Renaissance conversions and grants to expand three District schools

By Dale Mezzacappa on Jul 26, 2013 06:11 PM

The School Reform Commission approved the Renaissance charter agreements for three schools on Friday, officially turning Pastorius over to Mastery Charter Schools, Kenderton to Scholar Academies, and Alcorn to Universal Companies.

At a tense, four-hour meeting, the SRC also accepted $1.1 million in grant money from the Philadelphia School Partnership to expand three high-performing District schools: converting the experimental Sustainability Workshop into the Workshop School; creating a second campus of Science Leadership Academy; and expanding the middle school Hill-Freedman to include high school grades.

But it did so over the persistent objections of Commissioner Joseph Dworetzky, who did a financial analysis showing that the District will be absorbing considerable extra cost for these schools after this year -- a move he called financially irresponsible given the District's shaky budget picture. Earlier in the meeting, the District had announced that it only had enough funding to rehire a few hundred of the 3,800 staff laid off this summer.

While praising all three educational models, Dworetzky said that the additional cost to the District to maintain these schools and their unique programs will eventually be nearly $8 million a year, averaging out to almost $5,000 per student. This is in a district where current per-student instructional cost ranges from about $6,000 to $8,000, depending on the school, according to Chief Financial Officer Matthew Stanski.

In making his objections, Dworetzky raised sensitive questions about equity within the District in this time of austerity.

“You've got to keep track of where the money's coming from, and this money is coming from everybody else!” Dworetzky said. “It’s not like it’s just coming out of the air. It has to come from the other students.”

Dworetzky was the only one of the five commissioners to vote against accepting the money from PSP for the three schools.

The entire meeting, attended by about 50 people, was a painful exercise as SRC members faced pointed, difficult questions from members of the public about whether they feel they are fulfilling their responsibilities to assure a "thorough and efficient" education for all students. Commissioners engaged in unusually frank public debate among themselves over how to improve schools and assure equity when they are constantly scrambling for resources.

"I have no problem with these three schools, what they offer, but we have to look at the actual dollars," Dworetzky said. "If they cost $5,000 or $6,000 or $8,000 more per student, for me that's beyond the point of equity."

Commissioner Wendell Pritchett took a different approach in voting for the expansions. "These are exciting, exactly what we should be doing for all our kids," he said in voting yes. "I'm excited to support these three programs."

The three programs will add about 230 students this year, but that number will eventually grow to more than 1,600 as the schools add grades and fill out. But the Commonwealth's method for sending dollars to school districts is not based on enrollment, so the District can't count on additional money for those additional students.

The commissioners declined to respond to the concern that they were allowing outside organizations to dictate which schools to expand and invest in.

"It's not OK to let private donors dictate public priorities," said parent activist Helen Gym in public testimony to the commission.

Renaissance vote

Dworetzky also opposed the resolutions authorizing the three charter conversions. His objections there were similar – that each Renaissance School conversion ultimately costs the District money, although less than if a new charter were started from scratch.

Superintendent William Hite said that in the case of the Renaissance schools, he had secured funding that would eliminate the cost to the District in the first year.

In June, the SRC put on hold a resolution to approve the Renaissance conversions at Alcorn, Pastorius and Kenderton -- which presented a problem because the three schools were in limbo and were running out of time to plan for their fall opening.

Since then, apparently, District officials and proponents of the Renaissance initiative came up with nearly $4 million in state support and  philanthropic commitments  to subsidize the first-year cost. The state support is in the form of a $3 million federal School Improvement Grant that will be passed through to the District, earmarked for turnaround. Hite said that the District was counting on getting that money, even though those grants are competitive.

The charter organizations also apparently secured private funding to cover some of their operating costs and have agreed that the District's payments to them would be reduced in the first year by nearly $1 million. The philanthropic contribution was estimated by the District as nearly $950,000. Hite said that the three providers were "raising money on their own to reduce the cost to the District" in the first year.

But in the four succeeding years, according to a document requested by Dworetzky and released at the meeting, the "marginal cost" to the District for operating the three schools as charters instead of keeping them in the District is estimated to grow from $5.3 million to $7.5 million annually.

"In four years on the SRC, I have been more than willing to see some additional funding go to Renaissance charters where they are doing a good job," Dworetzky said, praising Mastery and Scholar Academies in particular. But again, the additional costs raise the question of equitable distribution of resources, he said.

In Universal’s case, Dworetzky had another problem: the nearly two-year-old standoff with the organization over paying for use of the Audenried and Vare buildings, where it already runs Renaissance programs. For most of that time, Universal has not paid anything, citing a handshake agreement during the tenure of former SRC chairman Robert Archie and former superintendent Arlene Ackerman that it could use the buildings at no cost.

Deputy Superintendent Paul Kihn said that the District had finally worked out an agreement where Universal would pay the full cost in Audenried and all but utility costs at Vare. But then a glitch arose – the charter office received information that at Vare, Universal had been running a kindergarten class from its other charter school without authorization.

An official from Universal, Shaheed Dawan, was in the room and acknowledged that Universal had installed the kindergarten class, part of its independent Universal Institute Charter School, without informing the District. The back-and-forth did not resolve the issue but didn't cause any other commissioner but Dworetzky to vote against the turnover.

Pritchett was not entirely happy with the situation but said he would vote for the Alcorn conversion.

"I have worked with the parents at Alcorn for the past year, and there is gigantic frustration that we have been failing those kids for a long time," he said. "We have to stop failing those kids."

The District also has not settled an ongoing disagreement with Mastery over the costs of severely disabled students now located at Clymer Elementary, one of their current Renaissance turnaround schools, according to officials. That issue is nearing resolution, said Sophie Bryant, an aide to Hite who has been working with charter operators.

Promise Academy model discussed

Hite said that the District would invest more than $7 million additional this year in 12 Promise Academies, its internal turnaround initiative, six existing schools and six new ones. However, the commissioners and Hite acknowledged that the turnaround model, which primarily depended on extending learning time and doubling down on remediation, needs to be rethought.

"We need a rigorous discussion of the Promise model," said SRC Chair Pedro Ramos. "We inherited the model that was here. Now we have new academic leadership ... and all models [should be] put on the table."

Commissioners complained that they needed more information about what the model is and how the money would be spent. The District closed three Promise Academy high schools -- Germantown, University City, and Vaux -- but is planning to open six more, mostly elementary schools. 

Pritchett added that "one of the challenges of the District turnaround model is that we have tried different things, and that's a good thing. But we wouldn't want to continue to fund any aspect of the turnaround that we know ... wasn't working." He mentioned Saturday morning classes and activities, which were poorly attended.

Commissioners maintained a tense silence when asked directly by several speakers why they haven't been more outspoken -- or even why they didn't resign in protest -- over a financial rescue package from Harrisburg that fell far short of what they requested and primarily relies on city rather than state revenue.

And they also declined to answer questions about whether they agree -- or indeed, had asked for -- the legislature's decision to demand changes in the teachers' contract before releasing most of the additional funds for this year being made available, including a one-time $45 million payment and the opportunity to take out a $50 million loan against future sales tax revenue.

"The state is saying, yes, we have the money, but no, we're not giving it to you. We want to know if that is the official position of the SRC," asked retired teacher Lisa Haver in public testimony. The commissioners did not answer.

Holly Otterbein of NewsWorks contributed reporting to this story.

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Comments (81)

Submitted by Poogie (not verified) on July 26, 2013 9:45 pm
All of this is to be paid for with a 13% pay cut from me!!! They are not taking care of the schools they have since they obviously intent to close them soon. Yet we teachers are to pay for the new schools??
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 26, 2013 9:16 pm
Once again, SLA, The Workshop, and Hill-Freeman will get far more money ($5000/per student) than any other District school. Hauger and Lehmann are taking money from right-wing venture capitalists vis-a-vis the Phila. School Dictatorship. They have no integrity. Are their egos that big that it has gone to their heads???
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 28, 2013 10:46 am
Did you read the article above? Read Stanski's quote above about average student expenditures. Than go to the district website and look up school budgets where you will find your assertion is way off. Low performing schools get a shipload more money.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 28, 2013 10:30 am
Go to the district website and look up school budgets where you will find your assertion is way off. Low performing schools get a shipload more money.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 26, 2013 10:47 pm
Once again, only Dworetzky is not asleep at the wheel.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on July 27, 2013 12:58 am
Dworetzky is speaking truth to power. He knows he has the support of the public. I wonder if this support of the public is what gives him so much courage. As for the expansion of Hill-Freedman MS to include high school grades, it makes no logistical sense whatsoever because Hill-Freedman is right next to King HS. Why not put the program in King's building? That would be the sensible approach. But alas, the PSP and the powers that be have their own agendas.... EGS
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 27, 2013 5:27 am
Dworetsky is not speaking out because he has the public's support. I doubt that "the public" knows him that well. One has to follow the SRC's actions to know that Dworetsky thinks independently and has the courage to speak out when he sees wrongdoing and fiscal irresponsibility. Check Dworetsky's background. He studied philosophy, which supports his ability to think. He is a bankruptcy lawyer, so he understands money in difficult circumstances. As for speaking out, I believe that it is his conscience. He, of all SRC members, has earned the right to sleep at night. Sorry will be the day that Dworetsky leaves the SRC. He term ends in 2014.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 27, 2013 8:57 am
Dworetsky was a huge supporter of the Renaissance program. He not only voted for Renaissance, he was outspoken in his support. He seems to have had a change of heart. Could it be that his term on the SRC expires this year?
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on July 27, 2013 5:59 pm
I believe though I can not prove it that Dworetsky plays "The Good Cop" to the others' "Bad Cop" stance. It's done all day everyday in POPO interrogations. Not much would surprise me about these slithering gibronies.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 27, 2013 11:34 am
Dworetzky voted to close all schools except Promise Academies over the past two years.. He voted for the DoomsdayBudget. He is the only one left over from the Ackerman era, and he let her run roughshod over us during her entire reign. He voted yes on everything except a few things yesterday. Yes, he is to be commended for being the only one to appear to have the ability to think and reason and the only one to have, at some meetings, the ability to speak. But the truth is, he votes with them about 90% of the time. May I say it again: stop being such cheap dates. Lisa
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 27, 2013 11:51 am
Should have said , Voted to close all schools which had been slated for closure. Lisa
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 27, 2013 12:54 pm
Yes Lisa, as always you are very perceptive and right about what you say. While Dworetzky "postures" and asks questions, he rubber stamps everything anyway and only votes against things when he knows his vote will not count. Dworetzky's bread is buttered by his political connections. He, like all SRC members, are political appointments. His law firm has made mucho money with their contracts with the state. Do not forget, that the reason he lives in San Francisco is because his wife is an executive with Comcast who was sent to San Francisco by Comcast to facilitate Comcast's expansion in that city and that state. How much has your Comcast bill gone up in the last few years? 30%? All the while the Comcast spokesman Cohen, postures to force 13% cuts in teacher and support staff pay.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 27, 2013 9:08 pm Wow. Once again, the plot thickens.
Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on July 27, 2013 10:37 pm
Dworetsky's wife is a Comcast executive. David Cohen of Comcast- self-appointed education czar for the district- designating concessions are necessary before more state aid is forthcoming. The plot is thick, and SICK.
Submitted by Annonym (not verified) on July 28, 2013 9:54 am
Sylvia Simms of SRC fame is also NOW from Comcast. She was a school bus attendant and then Comcast gave her a position which apparently allows her to take off for the SRC (and who knows what else.) Her votes have followed the lead of her employer - Comcast. So, Comcast, along with the Philadelphia School Dictatorship, are running the District. (Remember, Comcast is very anti-union. It does whatever to keep its employees non-union. It shows in their contract. Just look at Verizon - unionized employees - versus Comcast.)
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 28, 2013 6:14 pm
Can we get everybody in the SD to switch to Verizon?
Submitted by Education Grad ... on July 28, 2013 11:28 pm
Lisa, Dworestzky voted against the budget for the upcoming school year, didn't he? It was a 4-1 vote, if I recall correctly. He's not perfect. For example, he was silent when the teachers from ASPIRA Olney HS came and spoke about the anti-union tactics of the school's administration. Yes, he hasn't always voted responsibly in the past. But he's shown growth, major growth, in his commentaries and questioning at meetings. He's increasingly stood on his own on major votes. He has enough courage to break from the groupthink that often pervades the SRC and act independently from the special interests, namely charter school operators and the PSP. He may not do it as much as you or I would like, but I believe that he must be commended and supported for the courageous independence that he does demonstrate. Maybe reinforcing more of the positive might beget more of that positive behavior.... EGS
Submitted by Philly Activist (not verified) on July 29, 2013 9:50 am
If I remember correctly from having attended the meeting for the school closures Dworetsy did vote no on several school closings. We need to have a report out on what was voted on and who voted yes or no at the SRC Meetings concerning the issues. Is this something that the Notebook could provide like the Inquirer does for the Congressional votes? It is so hard to remember who is on board with what. Sylvia Sims has yet to find her voice for parents and the students. She is working hard toward dismantling organizations and keeping her organization in the forefront. She continually rubber stamps. Thanks for the information about her position with Comcast - you learn something new every day. I also did not know about Dworetsky's wife. Interesting bits of information.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 29, 2013 8:00 pm
How are other SRC members benefiting from their positions?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 27, 2013 2:21 am
Hill Freeman is IB. Teachers are trained, sent on trips, etc. Great teachers to begin with but egomaniac of a principal. Will they be taking kids from Germantown's closure? Probably not as it is a MAGNET! What's up with Central's IB program? Are they going to get extra money? They are much more succesful than HF. This makes no sense at all.
Submitted by Annonym (not verified) on July 27, 2013 6:39 am
All 3 schools - SLA, Hill-Freeman and The workshop are MAGNET schools. They should be successful because they cherry pick students who are successful. That said, The Workshop was only a selective program for high school seniors. They took "successful" high school seniors from a few neighborhood schools. They had $1 million for two years to work with less than 30 students a year. There were four men who ran the program - that is a ratio of 1:7 (teacher/student). IB is very expensive - Bodine, Central, Northeast, G. Washington and Girls have IB. Will those programs receive funding? What about the other students in those schools who aren't in IB? Will there be funding? Will there be any counselors at any high schools? SLA is highly selective - not only do students have to have high test scores, grades, attendance, no behavior issues but they also have to interview. Hite can claim he is doing this for "high performing seats" but just like Vallas, Hite / Khin/ Phila. School Dictatorship is destroying neighborhood schools. Hill-Freeman, SLA and The Workshop will only take students who meet their criteria, and in the words of Hauger from The Workshop - "fit" their programs. Apparently, they want to turn all neighborhood schools over to Charter Companies - which will cost the District more money. This fits into the privatization plan. (I'm curious - since the Phila. School Dictatorship is paying for extra staffing at 3 schools, will those schools have to follow the PFT contract? Will they hire through the School District or will they be able to do whatever they want to do? PFT - are you watching?)
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 27, 2013 9:04 pm
good question, would like to see this answered
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on July 28, 2013 9:06 am
They are District schools, which means the teachers fall under the jurisdiction of the PFT contract. Opening more slots in very popular with students SLA and the Workshop School, and very successful schools as Hill Freedman (PSSA Math and Reading between 90% and 100%, 83.4% Economically Disadvantaged, 91.7% African American, 30% Students with Disabilities), means fewer students will be looking at charters. In addition, expanding Hill Freedman, to include high school means it will open more seats in the magnet high schools that use test scores as entrance criteria, Masterman, Central, Bodine, CAPA, etc. This means these programs will allow more children in. Again, meaning fewer students looking at charters, private schools, or families moving to the suburbs. These are fewer students to privatization. PSP could not have picked a better gift to the District. So, the prevailing enmity is sadly mistaken. So is the idea that forcing students who are academically motivated to sit in class with a majority who are not, as they would be in a neighborhood school, is good for anyone. This includes union workers, because it is the greatest driving force for the exodus to the suburbs or private schools, and now charters. Not sure where Dworetzky is getting his numbers from. If you look at the individual school budgets, SLA and Hill Freedman don't spend any more than other District schools with similar enrollment size and demographic (adding in Special Ed). I could not find a school budget for the Workshop School probably because it has been relying on grant start up funding so far.
Submitted by Annonym (not verified) on July 28, 2013 11:15 am
Have you ever been in a neighborhood high school? To state students a "majority of students" are not academically motivated is a stereotype. There are many students in neighborhood schools who may not start out academically motivated but many are by 11th grade. The Workshop was not a school - it was not even part of the School District. Hauger didn't like working in the District at West so he took the money and ran. Now, he is welcomed back and able to do whatever he wants to do. How is this equitable? The Workshop has no stats because they took high performing seniors from neighborhood schools. The neighborhood schools prepared the students - not Hauger and his 3 male partners (none who were working for the School District. Wonder if Hauger - who was appointed principal - is hiring his 3 friends even though they should have to wait until all laid off teachers are returned...) Segregation by access / skills / etc. is still segregation.
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on July 28, 2013 11:11 am
My children were in two neighborhood schools, elementary and high school (the latter briefly). I sat in classes in the elementary school. I stuck by the elementary school despite the exodus of families to alternatives. In hindsight, there was more damage, than good done by doing so. The kids determined not to pay attention and to disrupt class continued to do so, and the kids who cared were cheated out of more attention as well as more appropriate class material. The concept that "sorting" kids by academic/motivation/family involvement is segregation is incorrect. That is the damaging generalization. Even Roxborough H.S. had to institute some behavior requirements for admission, and Mr. Brandt's ability to "turn around" that school should be seen in light of that. It takes over a majority of families that are involved with their children in order to lift those who are not. If it is the other way around, then the involved families are "dragged down", and it is no wonder that they choose not to have this happen. The Workshop school is now listed amongst the District schools on its website. It is not proven yet, very true; however it could easily qualify as a separate charter because of its method. This school might be the one that would justify Mr. Dworetzky's concern of needing more money per child in the future because of its reliance on a very small student to teacher ratio. Charters are being overpaid because of the underutilization at the District right now. Because of this, having such a huge number of, 80 some, charters is a significant part of the budget crisis. Giving families reason to enroll their children in District schools should be seen as a good thing.
Submitted by Annonym (not verified) on July 28, 2013 12:57 pm
Yes, Roxborough added admission requirements. So has Kensington CAPA. That said, we still need schools for students who the magnets / special admits / charters do not want. Sending them all to for profits like Camelot is NOT the solution. I have seen many students "turn around" while in high school - they should not be relegated to a ware housing (e.g. Camelot) approach to "education." I do not understand why magnet programs are not returned to neighborhood high schools. If it is good enough for Northeast, Washington and now Fels High Schools, why not ALL neighborhood high schools? Students would have more options, especially with sports, the arts and other extra curricular activities, and it would save money. Why not put Parkway Northwest into MLK along with Hill-Freeman? Why not put at least 2 magnet programs into Roxborough? Instead, neighborhood schools have a very disproportionate number of students with an IEP. Then, neighborhood schools are called "failing" because they have students with many "issues" (attendance, behavior, mental health, academic skills, etc.)
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on July 28, 2013 3:13 pm
I agree with you that kids with greater needs should not be "warehoused". I have not visited a Camelot school, but the comments posted here are not encouraging. If we were to look at the number of these kids overall in the District, what percentage would you say these kids make up? The percentage of kids in magnet schools? The percentage that are somewhere in between? If we want to use "mixing", the key to "lifting up" is to have enough children at a level "above" (academic/motivation/family involvement) to lift those who are "below". The difference in levels can't be too great as well; otherwise there is isolation and misunderstanding. I'm not sure that simply housing the current magnet programs in neighborhood schools would work for these reasons. Rather than break up, expansion which eases the entry standards, strategically increases the distribution of the magnet programs, with less disparity in levels of academic/motivation/family involvement. Neighborhood schools need to aggressively use Title I funds to enrich kids with greater needs. Instead of using them school wide, they need to target them to those who would benefit the most. Bring in theater, extra organized sports, fund alliances with community outreach programs, including health care, etc. Start building the foundations for a community school in impoverished neighborhoods. This would require some flexibility in school administration that the SDP appears to be incapable of. Ironically it would be the charters, were they not "for profit", that would be able to apply this strategy the best.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 29, 2013 6:44 am
Ms. Cheng, charters receive less per pupil, no facilities funding, can't raise taxes and are blocked from many grant/funding opportunities. This has been factually explained to you in the past, but you persist in spouting off inaccuracies. You have no credibility and actually make it easier for those looking to privatize/exploit public education and students. All public schools are being under funded. Independent charters receive less money and that rate is determined by law (philadelphia expenditures). The district does have the power to provide additional funding to Renaissance schools by giving deals on facilities, paying for utilities and other services and making special allowances for special education and other services. Why not fight the real fight with facts, rather than just screaming about propaganda?
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on July 29, 2013 7:58 am
Here are some facts: All you are going by is the fact that charters are paid what the home district spends per child on instruction only. The per child instruction spending at the SDP comes in at $8,835 for regular ed and $20,779 for Special Ed plus Gifted (2011-12 using PDE spreadsheet AFR Detailed). This is what the SDP is paying each charter on its less than full utilization. The school budget of Central H.S., at full utilization however, including its Gifted, spends less than $5,700 per child (add 3% for central office support according to Stanski and it is still less than $6,000 per child). Fact: The SDP is paying charters more on less than full utilization, than it would be if it had full utilization. The overage is of a magnitude approaching the concessions the SDP feels it must seek from the PFT (55,000 charter students x $2,000 per child = $110 million). Charters are also reimbursed by the State for rent paid for facilities. The SDP transports 16,235 of its own, and 14,487 charter students on yellow buses, the expense which does not show up on the charter spending (see "About Us", then "snapshot" at SDP's website). Please provide the link to detailed charter spending, even income tax returns. I haven't found the AFR Details for any charters listed on the PDE website. Charters are reported to be the worst violators of PA's Right to Know law. What detailed facts are available to the public about their finances? I am not "spouting off inaccuracies". I have references for all my information. Where are your references, the most important of which would be the detailed listing of both charter revenue and expenditures? The two assumptions that charters, 1. spend less, and 2. provide the exact same services for less, are among the drivers towards privatizing with private charter operators. How does seeing that these assumptions are not necessarily true encourage privatization? Unless you have the detailed numbers, you are making unfounded assumptions and drawing some odd conclusions as well.
Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on July 29, 2013 7:56 am
Please keep posting this. Very well said. You should also send an op-ed to every newspaper.
Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on July 29, 2013 7:27 am
Charters also "double dip" on retirement costs: "Like all school districts, the East Penn School District must abide by a flawed funding formula that allows charter and cyber charter schools to receive tuition based on a school district's retirement expenditures and then again under the retirement code to realize a minimum of 50 percent reimbursement of pension expenses. This double-dipping of retirement costs allows charters and cyber charters to get paid twice for retirement costs." (Morning Call, March 11, 2013)
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on July 29, 2013 9:38 am
The formula is definitely flawed. For instruction, charters with their better flexibility should only be paid what the home district is spending on instruction per child in schools with 100% utilization, as at Central H.S. for example. In the case of Philadelphia, with its large number of charters, the flawed formula is a major factor in the current budget crisis, and if not corrected, will continue to unjustly burden taxpayers and steal from other legitimate funding needs.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 29, 2013 12:01 pm
Facilities funding is minimal, at best. Districts get Plancon in which they receive reimbursements for construction and associated costs. Also, the district is funded for charter transportation by the state. As has been explained to you before, Central's $5,700 per child is for instruction. The 3% Stanski references is for central office at 440. This does not include regional support and other offices that provide services and support to schools. It also does not account for any contracted services that would occur in schools (legal for example). Facilities and maintenance improvements are also not included in your assessment, so at best you are way off. Again, rather than seeking fair funding for all public schools, you seem intent on vilifying charters. Before charters were in the picture, funding was woefully inadequate, performance was horrible and safety was a major concern. There needs to be true reform instead of holding on to the status quo.
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on July 29, 2013 1:47 pm
And you have missed my point entirely. The amount paid for instruction, is what charters are paid by law. The amount based on incomplete utilization is an inflated figure, $8,800 per child. The amount Central H.S. spends at complete utilization is what charters should be paid, $5,700 to $6,000 per child rather than the $8,800. This would include all administrative supports and is actually an overestimate because the $5,700 includes Gifted which is not supposed to be included as it is added separately for charters. I am not vilifying charters, only the funding formula which under the burden of 80 plus charters is bringing the whole system down. I am however questioning the assumption that charters cost/spend less than the traditional public school. Without their data (and they are making it hard to access their data) you can not assume this. I am still waiting to see this data. The transportation cost that the District is reimbursed is still billed to the taxpayer. The point is that it does not show up on the charter expense sheet, but on the District expense sheet. There is fraud potential in both systems; however, charters were meant to work with the traditional system, not replace it. Certainly not to bring it down. Why do you keep insisting that the fight is entirely to get more money? You make pawns of families. During the Rendell years, the SDP was most certainly not underfunded. The huge Federal Stimulus funds were not "underfunding". The flawed charter funding formula is almost certainly a major culprit in what looks like an exponential increase in the recent overall District spending.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 29, 2013 4:15 pm
So, you would support charters receiving $5,700 AND an additional amount per pupil for facilities costs? Some states fund that at the tune of $2,500 to $4,000 per pupil. Where would that money originate? Since public school children (taxpaying parents) are paying for facilities like 440 and the new $60 million district buildings, wouldn't you agree that charters should receive equal or at least similar funding? Again, where would the money originate?
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on July 29, 2013 4:12 pm
Actually no I wouldn't. Charters need to fill a legitimate need, provide something not feasible from the traditional public school system. They need to find the support before they start up. They get help with capital costs, perhaps not as much as $2,500 to $4,000 per child, but apparently enough to be able to transfer real estate wealth from the public to the private sector. Here's an excerpt from "Charter school law allows charter schools to acquire real property by purchase, lease, and lease with an option to purchase or be gifted facilities. The law also allows them to incur debt for the construction of school facilities. In addition, Public School Codes provide for reimbursement for leases of buildings or portions of buildings for charter school use, which have been approved by the Pennsylvania Secretary of Education on or after July 1, 2001. The approved reimbursable annual rental for approved leases of buildings or portions of buildings for charter school use is the lesser of (i) the annual rental payable under the provisions of the approved lease agreement, or (ii) the product of the charter school facility’s enrollment times a legislated dollar amount based on the type of school ($160 for an elementary school, $220 for secondary schools, and $270 for area vocational technical schools). The subsidy paid equals the approved reimbursable annual rental multiplied by the aid ratio for a charter school."
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 29, 2013 10:10 pm
So, you want charters to be private and only operate if they have private funding. The district monopoly (status quo) should be the only public education vehicle? You also realize that the language related to rental reimbursement equates to a fraction of facilities costs for charters. You also realize that the same Butkovitz report bashing charters for creating foundations fails to mention that in order to qualify for the rental reimbursement listed above, most charters that purchase property must do so with a foundation. I'm sure you've also simply forgotten to mention that school districts across the commonwealth have similar foundations in place.
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on July 30, 2013 8:52 am
Philadelphia is probably the only school district in the Commonwealth that has 80 plus charters. How are all these able to manage their significant facilities costs? Those charters then that are completely funded at the public level, most certainly cost more to the taxpayer than the traditional public school. The significant additional facilities costs need to be justified when public investment has already been made in facilities. Where does it state that charters are meant to replace the system we already have? Rather, charters were meant to introduce innovation and provide data to support system wide changes. This intent has been replaced by the banner of "choice" that feeds an isolated/individualistic mindset and leads to a philosophy of abandonment rather than constructive work. Obviously, as any marketer would know, this mindset is popular. There are alternatives in the district monopoly, and these can be expanded. Granted the philosophy of abandonment existed before charters, but only those that had the means exercised it. Many of their children are now moving back to the City, looking for an alternative to their parents' "choice". The SDP bureaucracy is a problem, on that I would agree. There is not the political will to change this it appears. In the meantime however, the use of charters to provide the alternative if public funding is the sole source of their revenue, is not sustainable. Final note: I did just find the charter data on the PDE spreadsheets. The spreadsheets are difficult to read because the Philadelphia City SD data combines data with the charters. The charter enrollment data then must be matched up, and this table is not user friendly either. At first glance, the charters are filing less per child expenditures; but how would we know if their significant facilities costs are being accurately recorded? Who besides the City Controller could check this?
Submitted by Philly Activist (not verified) on July 29, 2013 9:53 am
Ahhhh - I see no mention of PSP who has graciously funded charter schools and parochial schools. I am very concerned with PSP's active role in the School District. Watch out for the fox in the hen house.
Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on July 29, 2013 9:44 am
Yes - The Philadelphia School Dictatorship is part of the privatization of education machine. Good op-ed on the "Charitable Industrial Complex" from Sunday's NY Times -
Submitted by Eileen DiFranco (not verified) on July 29, 2013 3:32 pm
Your comment about Roxborough having "admission" requirements is not exactly true. All kids from the neighborhood are accepted in spite of behavior issues. Kids coming from outside the area and apply to our technology program have to meet certain requirements.
Submitted by Concerned Phila. (not verified) on July 29, 2013 3:18 pm
If all neighborhood high schools had an internal magnet program, the schools would attract more academically prepared and focused students. Instead, the District focuses on more individual magnet schools. Now, there will be a "report card" to evaluate schools - an oranges to apples comparison. (For example, Dr. Hite sent a "tweet" in June bragging about Central High School sending 90% of seniors to college and challenged everyone to hold "high standards." Well, if all schools had the same admission requirements. ... )
Submitted by Eileen DiFranco (not verified) on July 29, 2013 4:14 pm
There is a larger, systemic problem here. College has been the mantra of public schools throughout the country. The reality is that significant numbers of people can't, don't want to, or shouldn't go to college. Pigeon-holing kids into the college track led to the mass closure of vocational ed programs in all of the comprehensive high schools. Kids who might have been motivated by auto repair, like my brother-in-law, who went on to own his own service station by age 23, are unmotivated by chemistry and Spanish. High sounding words like "individualized" instruction get stuffed into a college track which is meaningless to very significant numbers of our students. Thus, the unmotivated kids misbehave b/c they are not interested.
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on July 30, 2013 8:10 am
Thanks for the clarification for admission to Roxborough H.S. I recall a student comment about the children that were prescreened to attend Roxborough coming from the recently closed Germantown H.S. Per this student, they were the better behaved and more motivated ones. Wasn't Lankenau, a magnet school, proposed to be placed at Roxborough? Philly's neighborhoods are not all equal. Roxborough has had an influx of middle class suburban young people. It has some poverty issues, but not at the level that North or West Philly has. I couldn't agree more with your comment about college. It is still of great value because of the abstract thinking skills that are taught there; however, the cost has become way too high. Those same thinking skills could be taught using a different vehicle, that would not bankrupt families.
Submitted by Eileen DiFranco (not verified) on July 30, 2013 11:47 am
The middle class from Roxborough do not, for the most part, attend our school. They attend private or Catholic schools. The kids from Abbottsford also attend our school. we also get a substantial number of kids from West and SW Phila. Consequently, Roxborough does service a cross section of kids.
Submitted by Annonym (not verified) on July 27, 2013 7:46 am
When IB was introduced to Philadelphia under Vallas (2003), Martin Luther King HS was suppose to have IB. It never happened. So, yes, the IB program should be added to a neighborhood high school rather than creating a new high school. This is the continuation of the destruction of neighborhood high schools. Vallas started the process and Hite/Khin/Philadelphia School Dictatorship will complete it. So, what happens to the students rejected by magnet and charter schools? (I found out this weekend a Northeast charter high school kicked out a student for posting a video from the school on facebook. The video was of a student who "mooned" other students. No violence - just a teenage joke. Just another example of charters getting rid of students who don't "fit" with their program.)
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 28, 2013 9:11 am
IB was rejected by the staff. They didn't what to do the extra mandatory work: PD off site, unit planning and providing a rigorous curriculum. If the staff is not willing, IB is not an option for schools.
Submitted by Annonym (not verified) on July 28, 2013 11:55 am
That was then; this is now. Advanced Placement has similar requirements and MLK has AP courses. Isolating another neighborhood high school is part of the master plan - destroy neighborhood schools, expand charters and further segregate the School District.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on July 28, 2013 11:33 pm
Are Hill-Freedman and Central even comparable? Hill-Freedman is a middle school and Central is a high school. What measure of success are you using? Test scores?
Submitted by Annonym (not verified) on July 27, 2013 7:08 am
Any progressives out there challenging this injustice? Hauger? Lehmann?
Submitted by tom-104 on July 27, 2013 9:43 am
It's too bad this article does not have more content about what speakers said at the SRC meeting. Many valid points were raised. The standard response from the SRC was best expressed by Ramos when he said, with shouts of protest from the audience, "we cannot keep passing on failing students year after year" and that privatization through charters is the answer. At the same time the SRC refused to address the inequitable funding from the state and city and the SRC's refusal to fight for this. It was clear by their comments that the SRC believes teachers are to blame for the social conditions under which they must teach and their students must learn.
Submitted by Another Philadelphian (not verified) on July 27, 2013 9:05 am
Is Ramos assuming charters do not pass along "failing students?" In June 2013, Freire Charter dropped 14 seniors and sent them back to their neighborhood high schools. Instead of assuring the students were not "failing," Freire Charter passed the buck to the neighborhood high schools. How is this a "solution," Mr. Ramos?
Submitted by Go-Eagles (not verified) on July 27, 2013 12:53 pm
Another Philadelphian - So, SDP doesn't push kids through the system?
Submitted by Go-Eagles (not verified) on July 27, 2013 10:26 am
From the article ........ This is in a district where current per-student instructional cost ranges from about $6,000 to $8,000 depending on the school, according to Chief Financial Officer Matthew Stanski. These are instructional costs, which account on average 60% of the total spent per student. The other 40% is tied up in overhead. In this case, another $4,000 to $6,000 bringing the total per pupil cost to $10,000 to $12,000. Charter schools probably operate leaner. Parochial schools operate even less than charter schools. No wonder that the charter schools are making money hand over fist. We need to privatize this mess as fast as possible. The taxpayer is getting ripped off.
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on July 29, 2013 12:40 am
Go-Eagles, charters are not necessarily "more better" financially . Check out this report on charter fraud vulnerability (dated 2010): I doubt that private schools can provide Special Ed and Mentally Gifted instruction for the $20,000 per child that the SDP does. The Academy in Manayunk, now just AIM because they are no longer in Manayunk, having relocated to the suburbs (no surprise) which specializes in children with ADD or ADHD charges $31,400 to $32,600 per child. Of course, the Philadelphia Controller was able to trace the fraud in the case of charters. It's hard to trace all the wrong in the extra "bodies in suits", or extra padding in the contracts, paid with Title I or other taxpayer funds, in the case of the SDP proper.
Submitted by Dina (not verified) on July 29, 2013 1:55 pm
I wish there was some way to have this discussion so that it more informed and addressed the complexities and nuances of these decisions. First of all, if we weren't in a situation of scarcity (created, in part, by inequitable funding, a general refusal to fund urban public education, and a clear effort to attack public schools and public unions) we might not have to have this battle between and among schools. Secondly, everyone should do their homework about the schools they are talking about as well as recognize that this is not only about teachers and teacher unions but also about the quality of education. SLA and The Workshop represent schools where students are getting the kind of education I for one wish everyone was getting. Are some of them too selective? Perhaps - and hopefully their expansion will allow more students who can benefit to become involved. And students in most charters are getting something very different and in many of them curriculum and instruction much more aligned to "test prep." All of these schools are not the same and cannot be lumped together.
Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on July 29, 2013 2:18 pm
Anyone who is "progressive" and takes money from the Philadelphia School Dictatorship is aligning themselves with the privateers of education. Why should a few schools - namely Hill-Freeman, the workshop (which was NOT a school but took top performing seniors from a neighborhood high schools), and SLA - receive extra funding while most District schools will be bled dry? If the "progressives" want to stand up for PUBLIC education, then they need to refuse funding from the Phila. School Dictatorship. Otherwise, they have no integrity.
Submitted by Concerned Phila. (not verified) on July 29, 2013 2:01 pm
Any school that is selective should not be "judged" against a school that has NO admission requirements. All of the "good" schools you mentioned are selective. Charters have their own way of being selective. If SLA and The Workshop (and Hill-Freeman) want to change things, then they should not have admission requirements. I'd love to see the administrators in the above mentioned schools try to lead a neighborhood high school. It will NEVER happen because they will only run a program with students who "fit" and meet the standards for their schools.
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on July 29, 2013 3:23 pm
A really interesting school based research "project" would be for SLA to take a hundred or two of our lowest performing students and see if placing them in high performing seats makes them high performing students or just low performing students sitting in high performing seats. Back in the day when we actually did school based research, we would have done just such a research project within our school. Actually, we did track the reading progress of some of our students who did not take reading classes but were in our magnet programs at Uni. If we really do have school choice, wouldn't it make sense to allow some low performing students to choose a high performing school -- whatever that is? After all, doesn't SLA stand for project based learning?
Submitted by Another Philadelphian (not verified) on July 29, 2013 3:58 pm
If "The Workshop" wanted to be open to all students, it should not be kicking West Phila HS students out of their building. Instead, return to West Phila. HS and be part of the solution for a neighborhood school rather than skimming off stop students to another magnet school. That would be a radical idea! (SLA, by the way, has a high percentage of students who went to private schools K-8. They come with a lot of resources that few neighborhood schools can imagine. Will SLA - Beeber take any students in the Beeber catchment? )
Submitted by Dale Mezzacappa on July 29, 2013 4:51 pm

Current West Philly automotive students, Dr. Hite said at the meeting, will be given the option to enroll in the Workshop School. Again, according to what was said at the meeting, SLA plans to give Beeber students preference for admission



Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 29, 2013 4:46 pm
But the Workshop school is supposed to start only with 9th grade this year. How can current automotive students enroll, since they would presumably be going in to 10th, 11th or 12th grade? It just sounds like this was something said to appease and not a real plan.
Submitted by Concerned Phila. (not verified) on July 29, 2013 6:52 pm
I'll believe it when I see it. The Workshop only is accepting 9th graders - thus, the West Philly students are out on the street. How many Beeber students will be given preference for SLA? Sure, they can take a token number but the criteria for SLA will not change.
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on July 29, 2013 4:21 pm
The decision to expand SLA, Hill Freedman, and The Workshop school should not be generating the enmity that it is. The SDP stands to gain enrollment, at the expense of charters (I know a parent who would not have chosen Mastery had her son not been waitlisted for SLA, and I'm sure she's not alone). Expanding these seats will increase access, not only to these programs but to those others that students occupying these seats will leave available in other popular/highly sought after District programs. Special admission programs can lift up students if they are expanded to increase access.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 29, 2013 4:12 pm
Thanks Dale, for helping everyone with some of the homework. Grandstanding on high horses won't get us very far.
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