Police are currently searching for answers in a case of $16,000 removed from a safe in a West Philadelphia Achievement Charter School. According to the Principal, the money was earned in a student-run candy sale. And it was kept in the school because that’s where you keep $16,000 dollars in one of the poorest areas in one of our poorest cities.
Look, I have no idea what happened. Maybe these students, though nearly 100% economically disadvantaged, somewhere raised a small fortune selling giant Hersey bars. And maybe the Principal, a self described “mastermind”, had a really good safe that she wasn’t using.
But if this sounds suspicious to you, then you should probably think long and hard about SB1085. The bill lowers to the bar of opening a charter school from “do you have an education mission, a solid plan of action, and a quantifiable way to raise student achievement?” to “did your check clear?”. That’s a bad idea.
Every charter is not corrupt. But in a system with a huge amounts of money and minimal oversight, corruption is not an “if” but a “when”. Some of the new schools may be great. Some may be as many charters are, a little bit worse than the average school and a little bit better than the neighborhood school. Some schools may be like the aforementioned West Philadelphia Achievement Charter – doing well in some areas, poorly in others, with low teacher experience and a not-t00-suprising lack of special education students. These numbers, which determine which schools rise and fall, can’t tell you if they are using the chess club money as a slush fund, can’t tell you if they have hired unlicensed ex-convicts as security, can’t tell you if they are using their school as a nightclub.
There are 55,000 children1 in dozens of charter schools in Philadelphia. There are, according to the web directory, 6 people keeping an eye on them. If we incentivize schools to raise test scores, they’re going to find a way to do it. If we remove the disincentive to wrongdoing, they’re going to do it by cheating. If we let people open schools without keeping any tabs on them other than Annual Yearly Progress, we’re going to get $16,000 in an unmarked safe. SB1085 perpetuates a lot of bad incentives without any additional safeguards.
This isn’t just awful union busting, it’s awful lawmaking. Please take a minute to contact your State representatives and urge them to oppose this bill.
From Brian Cohen,who explains that’s the same size as Pittsburgh ↩