Testimony of Lisa Haver to the Board of Education, August 15, 2019

The Board of Education now enters its second year as the governing body of the School District of Philadelphia.

The Board has made a number of changes in policy and procedure, but the question is whether they will lead to substantive changes in the District. Public school advocates fought for local control primarily to stem the tide of privatization of public schools and the outsourcing of public jobs to outside corporations.

But much of what we see on tonight’s agenda is a continuation of those SRC practices. Ratification of Items 16 and 17 would create 2 more Broad resident positions. Eli Broad is one of the many billionaires using his wealth to propagate the ideology of corporate education reform. He has lobbied to convert ½ of Los Angeles’ schools to charters. He instituted the unaccredited Broad Academy, a training ground for superintendents.

We see the sale of a public building to a company that would lease it to a charter school. A major factor in corporate education reform is the appropriation of public assets to private ownership.

Two Items propose the renewal of 2 charter schools, both of which had been postponed from previous years. We did not know until minutes ago what kind of renewal is being proposed. We don’t know which conditions were offered to the school and which were rejected by the charter operators. We don’t know because the practice of the SRC, and now the Board, is to deal with charters as clients, not as public schools as they claim to be, and all negotiations are conducted in private meetings.

APPS has asked in letters and testimony for the Board to hold public hearings on all charter actions including renewals and amendments. We ask again at this meeting for the Board to explain to the public why charter official actions are decided and voted on in secret—clear violations of the PA Sunshine Act. The Board gave MaST charter permission to enroll 650 more students—more than are in many of the schools in the catchment area. But the public was not told that until the Item was posted in full days after the vote. Why have a special committee for public engagement when the public is deliberately shut out of deliberations on matters that affect students, parents, educators and communities?