ELC has received a $25,000 grant from the Philadelphia Eagles Social Justice Fund, through which the Eagles organization provides a one-to-one match to donations by players and staff. Education is one of the Fund’s priorities, and we are thrilled to be able to partner with the Eagles in the important work of ensuring access to a quality public education for all children in Pennsylvania. We’re especially gratified to know that the grant resulted from a decision by the players and staff themselves, demonstrating a deep commitment to our shared goals. Deborah Gordon Klehr, our executive director, notes that we are thankful for the team’s support at a time when financial resources have been strained as a result of the pandemic: “Support from the Eagles will allow us to do our work in a year when so much is uncertain about other sources of funding,” she said. “To be able to know that we can continue to invest in our staff and continue to invest in our work is incredible.”
Parents and a community organization in Chester Upland School District have filed an emergency motion to suspend a process to outsource the entire district’s operations and schools to charter operators. This request for proposals process has taken place in secret, with no public notice and no opportunities for parents and other community members to weigh in. Here’s the text of our joint news release:
December 4, 2020 — Today, parents and a community organization in Chester Upland School District (CUSD) filed an emergency motion to suspend a process to outsource the entire district’s operations and schools to charter operators. This request for proposals (RFP) process has taken place in secret, with no public notice and no opportunities for parents and other community members to weigh in—violating court-ordered requirements. In addition, the RFP itself, issued on October 26, does not comply with state law requiring bidders to provide alternatives for students who do not wish to attend charter schools, and it does not require an evaluation of whether or not a bidder will provide a higher quality education than district schools, including for students with disabilities.
Parents Jazmine Campos, Latoya Jones, Tiffany Raymond, Precious Scott, and the Delaware County Advocacy & Resource Organization are represented by the Public Interest Law Center and the Education Law Center-PA. In February, the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas granted their petition to intervene and participate in the evaluation of the charter conversion plan.
“No school district in Pennsylvania has ever transferred its schools entirely to charter operators,” said Claudia De Palma, staff attorney at the Public Interest Law Center. “Such a radical measure, affecting thousands of students, absolutely cannot be considered behind closed doors. Parents need to be part of this process.”
On May 14, Delaware County Court of Common Pleas Judge Barry Dozor allowed CUSD’s receive to move forward with an RFP process to transfer management of the district and its schools to charter operators, as part of the district’s financial recovery plan. The judge’s order contained several requirements to ensure that the process was transparent and considered educational quality—not just cost savings. The ruling required the receiver to:
- release audits of school district finances
- post the RFPs, and any requests for information, publicly, on the district’s website
- conduct the process in a public manner and regularly submit status reports
- draft an RFP that ensures that any charter operator is evaluated on their ability to effectively educate all students, including students with disabilities, compared with CUSD
None of these requirements have been met. Parents only learned of the existence of the RFP on November 19—more than three weeks after it was issued—when it was attached as an exhibit in a court filing from Chester Community Charters Schools, the districts’ largest current charter school operator. The filing also describes a request for information issued on July 30 and a forum for bidders—neither of which were publicly announced, or even shared with the parents who had been allowed by the court to participate in this process.
Chester Community Charter School (CCCS) filed the first request for the receiver in Chester Upland to consider a large-scale charter conversion in the district in November 2019. The charter operator has worse academic scores in its current schools that many of those operated by CUSD. Because of their filing in response to the RFP, CCCS is the only potential bidder known to be involved in this RFP process. Under the current RFP, bids are due on December 14, 2020.
In addition to the emergency motion to suspend the RFP process, the parents and community organization filed a response to CCCS’s filing. They also filed a motion to compel the receiver to conduct an RFP process that complies with the requirements in the May 14 court order, allows for public participation, and fully considers educational quality.