A three-year fight to prevent a Northeast Philadelphia charter school from opening a campus in the Neshaminy School District could be headed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
The Neshaminy school board voted, 7-2, this week to ask the court to hear its appeal of a Nov. 10 Commonwealth Court decision allowing MaST Community Charter to open a K-12 school focused on technology. It would be the first charter school for the Bucks County district, according to a spokesman.
Board members Mike Morris, a longtime supporter of MaST, and Bob Feather cast the dissenting votes. Morris said Thursday that he thought the charter school could provide a better technology program than the 8,900-student Neshaminy district because MaST would not be constrained by teacher contracts.
"I believe in choice," Morris said, adding that the charter school's program was "set up and designed for technology. They can make changes" to programs and staffing when needed without having to engage in labor negotiations.
MaST, which has two campuses in Northeast Philadelphia, was ranked the 27th best high school in Pennsylvania in 2016 by U.S. News and World Report. CEO John F. Swoyer III said he believes the state Supreme Court, if it agrees to hear the appeal, will rule in MaST's favor.
"We meet the charter criteria, we have a strong performing model," and the school got more than 1,000 parent signatures in support, Swoyer noted.
The school would start with 500 students and grow to 1,275, he said.
In 2013, the Neshaminy board voted, 4-3, to reject the charter school, siding with teachers and administrators who said the district had far more high-level courses and extracurricular activities. The nearby Bensalem School District also had rejected an application from MaST.
At the time, former Neshaminy Superintendent Robert Copeland spoke out strongly against the proposal, while charter school supporters urged the board to approve the application so their children could attend MaST.
On Thursday, district spokesman Chris Stanley said administrators had no comment on the Supreme Court application. School Board President Scott Congden could not be reached for comment.
Earlier this year, the state Charter Appeal Board voted, 6-0, to order the Neshaminy board to allow the charter, the decision upheld last month by Commonwealth Court.
Morris said that MaST did not yet have a location.
"I've seen their operation down there, and I like it," he said. "It's clean. It's IT-based. They support students really well. We don't have a program like that. We're worrying about high wages and negotiating contracts."