"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Riding the 'turnaround' merry-go-round in the continuing assault on Philadelphia public schools: Part VI - Who is Afton Partners?

 by Ken Derstine
@ Defend Public Education
March 14, 2016

The previous article in this series was posted June 2, 2016. This series has detailed the assault on Philadelphia public schools by corporate education reform business and financial interests. At the last posting, the Philadelphia School Reform Commission had not acted on the non-renewal recommendation of its charter office for Aspira, Universal, and Mastery charters. 

Pennsylvania law mandates that a charter term is five years and must undergo a renewal process after that.  There is a stipulation in the law that the renewal process can be extended for one year, if there are mitigating circumstances.  That one-year extension can only be used one time. They have been postponing the renewals month after month since April 2016. Aspira’s was postponed without the SRC even taking a vote in 2015.

Now, as can be seen in Part VI in this series, the privatization merry-go-round is spinning ever faster in the assault on Philadelphia public schools.


In a recently released report by Afton Partners, the cost of students leaving Philadelphia public schools to transfer to charters was examined. The study had been commissioned in February, 2015 by the School Reform Commission, which functions as a school board and makes all final decisions for Philadelphia schools.

In “is the glass half full or half empty” coverage, the Philadelphia Inquirer published Report: Philly schools still face costs when students go to charters vs. the Philadelphia Public School Notebook’s Students leaving Philly schools for charters less costly than once thought.

According to The Notebook article, the resolution calling for the contract with Afton said the analysis would take place between February 20, 2015 and May 1, 2015. SRC officials claim the report “got lost in the shuffle as old administrators left and new administrators replaced them.” The District’s Chief Financial Officer Uri Monson, appointed February, 2016, said he first got word of the report last summer and has been working with Afton “to make sure the report addressed all questions.”

Why is the report being released now? Could it have something to do with a bill in the Pennsylvania House introduced by Speaker Mike Turzai on March 6th which would require the Philadelphia School District to add 3,000 charter seats per year? This bill would undercut the charter oversight authority of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission (SRC). The establishment of the SRC in 2001, as part of the state takeover of the School District, abolished local control of public schools, along with any hope of any type of democratic process.  A 2014 bill passed by the legislature imposed a $2/pack cigarette tax for school funding; it included a last-minute provision that the SRC consider applications for new charters each fall.  Rejected applicants would be able to appeal to the state Charter Appeal Board.

Now, invoking the states rights' provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), Turzai wants to completely take even this oversight from any local influence. He has been agressively intervening in the SRC's charter approval process lobbying for approval of charters that the SRC has rejected. The SRC's Uri Monson said the bill is unessessary because in the SRC's five year financial plan presented last year there is an already projected annual growth of charter enrollement of between 2,700 and 3,000 seats.

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