Cruz demands Gov. Wolf and PA Education Department address state charter school inequities

HARRISBURG, May 25 – State Rep. Angel Cruz joined the National Puerto Rican Agenda and other community leaders at a rally on the Capitol steps yesterday demanding Gov. Tom Wolf address racial inequities on the State Charter School Appeal Board.

“We’re gathered here to let the secretary of Education and Governor Tom Wolf know that they cannot make decisions about our school districts without visiting our schools and considering the latest data,” Cruz said. “Philadelphia turned over these school districts as renaissance schools. Now that they have finally started to find their footing, we are told the Philadelphia School District will be taking back these schools. I implore them to reconsider their decision. As safety, attendance, and grades have all increased, it would be a shame to take all that progress away from these children, their schools and families.”

“Don’t take our school from us,” said Savana Diaz, an eighth grader from John B. Stetson Charter School. “It’s the only good thing we have going on in our community. As a student, I know that. Please do not take it from us.”

According to Aspira Inc. of Pennsylvania, which has managed the John B. Stetson Charter School and Olney Charter High School since 2011, Aspira has made dramatic improvements in both schools. Since Aspira began managing the schools, enrollment, attendance and academics have all improved. Compared to peer schools, Aspira has demonstrated proficiency and growth in academics. Student attendance at Olney increased from 67% under district management to 84% under Aspira. Olney has seen an enrollment growth of 25% since Aspira management, and in addition, Aspira has invested in 45 trained security staff between Olney and Stetson to begin to change the culture on behavioral, social and emotional supports to increase safety.

In February 2022, the State Charter School Appeal Board upheld the School District of Philadelphia Board of Education’s decisions not to renew the charters of Olney Charter High School and John B. Stetson Charter School. The two schools are due to transition to management by the School District of Philadelphia by fall of the 2022-23 school year.

Both schools were originally recommended for “nonrenewal” by the school district’s Charter Schools Office in April of 2016 for failing to meet academic, operational, governance and financial expectations and requirements. After extensive proceedings, public hearings and comments, the Board of Education approved the nonrenewal of both charters in October of 2019. The charter schools filed appeals with CAB, and CAB upheld the nonrenewal for both schools on Feb. 15, 2022.

For more information, residents may contact Cruz’s district office at 215-291-5643.