Lawsuit seeks to enjoin District’s use of new policy that illegally restricts charter schools’ operation and growth
Philadelphia – Acting on behalf of 87 charter schools that educate 70,000 students in the city, Excellent Schools PA today filed suit to bar the School District of Philadelphia from enforcing portions of controversial Policy 406, which severely restricts charter operations and enrollment policies in violation of Pennsylvania law.
The lawsuit, filed today in Common Pleas Court in Philadelphia, asks the Court to declare certain provisions of Policy 406 unlawful, and to bar their enforcement. Adopted by the School Reform Commission on March 22, 2018, the controversial new policy unlawfully forces charters to seek approval for virtually any change to a charter’s curriculum and its operating facilities, while also attempting to impose unilateral enrollment caps despite numerous court rulings that clearly prohibit local districts from doing so.
Excellent Schools PA’s lawsuit comes after the District and its Charter School Office (CSO) repeatedly refused requests from charter schools to negotiate compromise language for Policy 406, choosing instead to implement regulations that “attempt to diminish the autonomy granted to charter schools under the law…”
“Policy 406 has no other purpose except to restrict the operation and growth of charter schools in Philadelphia,” said Excellent Schools PA Executive Director Stephen DeMaura. “And while the SRC will cease to exist on July 1st, unfortunately Policy 406 will remain on the books until it is changed, or overturned in court.”
The suit alleges that four specific provisions of Policy 406 violate state law on charter schools: 1) provisions related to changes in charter facilities; 2) provisions related to District control over a charter’s curriculum; 3) requirements that illegally impose unilateral enrollment caps; and 4) provisions that allow the District to consider the financial impact of charter amendments, which is prohibited under Pennsylvania’s charter school law.
“The job of a charter school authorizer is spelled out very clearly in the state’s Charter School Law, and yet the School District of Philadelphia constantly oversteps its boundaries and disregards best practices,” DeMaura said. “Policy 406 is not only another example of the District’s poor authorizing but an attack on the 70,000 students and their families who have chosen to attend a charter school to escape low-achieving neighborhood schools.”
Read the full complaint: 2018-04-12_ESPA v SDP Complaint