Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Philadelphia Non-Experiment

The Philadelphia commission charged with reforming that city's troubled public school system has denied an application for an all-boys public charter school that would have emphasized a traditional college-prep curriculum:
David P. Hardy, one of the founders of the proposed Southwest Philadelphia Academy for Boys Charter School, said the founders would enlist more lawyers to try to persuade the commission to reconsider their application.

"It is not over," Hardy said after the vote. "This issue pretty much hinges on the law and who's right. We believe we are right."

The commission today approved three other charter school applications. But due to the district's budget constraints, commission members said they want to delay their openings until the fall of 2007.

The 4-0 vote to deny an application for the proposed boys' charter that would offer a rigorous college-prep program and four years of Latin, came one week after leaders from the Women's Law Project in Center City urged commissioners to reject the proposal on grounds that a single-sex charter would violate state and federal law.

The Education Law Center, the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia and the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania also opposed the plan. The law groups said they might sue if the commission granted the charter.

Attorneys for the proposed boys' charter have maintained that such a school would be legal. There are 42 single-sex public schools across the country, including three in Philadelphia.
Two of the three existing charter schools in Philadelphia are for girls only.

The Philadelphia school board did approve these three charter school applications:
Among the three charters approved by the commission was the Pan American Charter School, a K-8 school affiliated with the Congreso de Latinos Unidos Inc. community organization. The charter, which will be located in West Kensington, will stress cultural awareness and enroll 318 students its first year.

TrueBright Science Academy Charter School, a 7-12 school, will open with 200 students in the Olney area. Founded by a group of local professors and scientists, the charter will focus on science and technology and plans to provide students with laptops.

Southwest Leadership Academy, a K-8 school will focus on leadership and character. The school, which will open with 208 students, is affiliated with Victory Schools Inc. Members of the charter board include former mayor Rev. W. Wilson Goode Sr., and State Rep. Ronald D. Waters, (D., Phila.-Delaware County).
I find it remarkable that the commission denied inner-city boys the opportunity to attend a school featuring a traditional college-preparatory curriculum while agreeing to spend taxpayer funds on a school that will stress "cultural awareness."

And would someone who understands the ACLU please explain why that organization seeks to ban a single-sex boys' school while it seemingly doesn't have a problem with two existing girls' schools? Nor does the ACLU seem to mind a school sponsored by a group styling itself Congreso de Latinos Unidos Inc. (The Congress of United Latin People)

The Philadelphia Inquirer's editorial board
doesn't like the Commission's decision either.
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