Public charter schools are facing a crisis everywhere, but in Philadelphia, there is a concerted effort to eliminate these schools entirely. In late June, the ,Philadelphia school board chose to revoke the charters of three schools that serve Black and Brown communities – Southwest Leadership Academy Charter School, Laboratory Charter School and Memphis Street Academy. There is an ongoing investigation into the Philadelphia school board’s practice of disproportionately closing Black and Brown-serving charter schools as opposed to white charter schools.
Nationally, the Biden administration’s new regulations will take away the option of opening successful charter schools, such as Boys’ Latin Charter which has sent more young Black males to college than any other high school in Pennsylvania since opening in 2007. There are ways to combat these closings and public charters must be prepared because local school districts, local, state and federal governments will not stop in their attempts to deny kids the quality of education they deserve.
The first step is having a member board that is well-versed and strong enough to give feedback and push for initiatives and change that benefits the students, which should be every charter school founder’s first and most important priority. You need a strong board to implement policy and procedure and be able to hold the leader of the school, as well as other administrators and teachers accountable for the school’s performance.
Along with that, parents who are paying taxes for their kids to attend schools should also have a say in the curriculum being taught to their children. They have just as much of a right as the school’s board to question what is being taught and the direction the school is going in.
Of the 254 schools in the city of Philadelphia, 143 are considered poor performers or ranking near the bottom in the state of Pennsylvania. That is unacceptable for a city of Philadelphia’s size and demographics and parents must realize that it is unacceptable and demand better educational opportunities for their children. There has to be a unified front among parents to make that demand, not just feeling powerless or feeling your specific children have all the tools they need because so many other children do not have the same resources.
Charter school founders cannot look at this as an opportunity to start a business – it can only be viewed and operated as a pathway to a better future for our young people by providing them with a quality education and social experience. Anything less than that and that will catch the attention of the powers that be that are chomping at the bit to close as many charter schools as they can.
It’s also very important to find people who can help you combat the numerous reasons that local, state and federal governments will find to close public charter schools. You need people who are familiar with the Philadelphia School District’s policies and procedures and can replicate them in a way that makes it hard to justify closing a charter school that hasn’t had the opportunity to learn and grow.
Asking for help from a strong board, getting parent support and hiring the right people to run the schools can keep Public Charter Schools open while figuring out a way to provide more educational opportunities for children where traditional public schools are failing. It will take a team effort to overcome the restrictive Biden policies and without that teamwork, more of our children will lose out on the opportunities that a great education can provide for them.
David Hardy is a board member for the Freedom Coalition for Charter Schools (FCCS) and the founder of Boys’ Latin Charter School, an all-male college preparatory high school in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.