Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Philly school board denies 4 charter applications, approves 2023-24 calendar

The Philadelphia school board has not approved a new charter school since it was reestablished in 2018, when local control returned to the school district.

The Philadelphia school board rejected four new charter applications Thursday night. It has never approved a new charter application.
The Philadelphia school board rejected four new charter applications Thursday night. It has never approved a new charter application.Read moreAlejandro A. Alvarez / Staff

The Philadelphia school board Thursday night continued its streak of approving no new charter schools, rejecting four applicants that hoped to open charters in Logan, West Philadelphia, North Philadelphia, and Olney.

The prospective schools — ASPIRA Bilingual College and Career Preparatory Academy, ASPIRA Dr. Ricardo E. Alegria Preparatory Charter School, Global Leadership Academy International Charter High School, and Perseverance Leadership Academy Charter School were voted down by the school board at its meeting.

At proposed scale, the four schools would have educated 4,000 Philadelphia students. The charter schools office made no recommendations to the board about whether they should approve or reject the applications, but cited deficiencies in all.

No new charter applications have been approved by the school board, established in 2018 when the Philadelphia School District returned to local control. The old School Reform Commission authorized two new charters that opened in 2019, Hebrew Public and MaST Community Charter School III.

Problems flagged by the charter schools office ranged from financial issues to curriculum troubles.

In one case, the proposed charter operator — which currently runs Bluford Charter, at 57th and Media in West Philadelphia, said it would open its new school in the district’s own building, despite having no buy-in from the district, which has said the buildings are not for lease. The Bluford board had also run Daroff Charter, which was abruptly closed just before the school year began, leaving hundreds of families scrambling.

The Bluford application “does not demonstrate sufficient evidence of the applicant’s capacity to establish a charter school that fully implements the proposed mission. Specifically, the application does not include curricular materials that demonstrate the applicant’s capacity to implement any of the required PA Core and Academic Standards or a trauma-informed, social-emotional curriculum,” a charter office report said.

“The charter schools office found extensive deficiencies in this application,” Peng Chao, acting charter schools chief, told the board Thursday night.

The two ASPIRA applications bore similarities to other charter applications filed — and rejected — by the board in the past.

“The proposed leadership team structure raises a number of concerns for us, and there were questions as to whether the structure complies with charter school law,” Chao said about ASPIRA Prep, which would operate in the old Cardinal Dougherty building.

ASPIRA recently lost two district schools it had previously run as charters. The school system took back control of Olney High School and Stetson Middle School from ASPIRA, the powerful Hispanic nonprofit, because of concerns over the schools’ academic, financial, and operational health.

Of the four proposed charters, “part of me wants me to say, give them a shot,” board president Reginald Streater said, adding the board acts as trustees of Philadelphia’s children, signaling his concerns about the applicants.

Naomi Johnson-Booker, who leads two existing Global Leadership Schools, said the proposed high school would prepare Black students to excel in a world that too often wants them to fail.

“Our high school will further dismantle Philadelphia’s school-to-prison pipeline,” said Johnson-Booker, an educator with 50 years’ experience educating city children.

The board also approved calendars for the 2023-24 and 2024-25 school years. The biggest change? A post-Labor Day start for students this fall. Philadelphia students had returned to school in August recently.

Extensive parent, teacher, and community feedback shaped the calendars, officials said: 4,000 people weighed in over several months. That and the board’s public rationale for its changes are a departure for the board, which in the past has taken heat for making unilateral decisions with little explanation.

Nearly everyone who weighed in on the calendars said they preferred a later start, in part because most Philadelphia schools aren’t fully air-conditioned, and late-summer heat has forced closures at many schools.

The calendar includes other shifts, including a new day off for Lunar New Year. (Diwali, which had been an off day, was not able to remain a holiday.)

There will also be fewer half days, due in large part to family concerns over finding childcare on those days.