Philadelphia House Delegation, PLBC respond to independent report on alleged racial bias in charter school authorization practices

PHILADELPHIA, Oct. 6 – Leaders of the Philadelphia House Delegation and Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus today received an independent report commissioned by the Philadelphia Board of Education nearly two years ago that examined alleged racial bias in the charter school application process.

In late 2021, the Philadelphia Board of Education commissioned an independent investigation concerning allegations of racial bias in charter school authorizing practices as alleged by some Black charter leaders, and whether the charter renewal process caused discriminatory effects on Black-led and Black-founded charter schools. Philadelphia-based law firm Ballard Spahr LLP led the investigation, and the Ballard firm engaged the Center for Urban and Race Equity, or CURE, to assist in its analysis.

The 190-page report was released at 5 p.m. today.

Philadelphia House Delegation Chairwoman Rep. Morgan Cephas said that while the report does not appear to reveal evidence of intentional, overt racially discriminatory acts by the school district or its leaders or find racially discriminatory effects of the charter renewal process, the report does include a series of recommendations based on the work of the investigation and is encouraging the school district to engage quickly with state lawmakers, local officials and the public to ensure a better path forward.

“The Philadelphia House Delegation is committed to Philadelphia school students and the education they deserve, in addition to making sure our public schools work as effectively and efficiently as possible, including in the processes for approving alternate learning settings such as charter schools,” Cephas said. “We will take the time to read this report and determine what we can do at the state level to give the Philadelphia School District the support it needs when reviewing charter applications, along with ensuring fairness in the system, especially as it relates to racial equity.”  

Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus Chairman Napoleon Nelson, D-Montgomery, said he looks forward to working with all parties involved to ensure an equitable system for students, the Philadelphia School District and charter school applicants, with an eye toward ensuring racial equity in all processes.

“This report is a long time coming, and the PLBC is committed to working with the Philadelphia Delegation and Philadelphia Board of Education to examine the outcome of the investigation and creating a sustainable and equitable education for all students, most importantly students of color,” Nelson said.