The Board of Education Releases the Ballard Spahr Report to the Public
In December 2021, the Board of Education commissioned an independent investigation concerning allegations of racial bias in charter school authorizing practices to determine whether there was objective, factual support for specific allegations of race discrimination or racial bias alleged by some Black charter leaders and whether the charter renewal process has caused discriminatory effects on Black-led and Black-founded charter schools. The Board engaged Philadelphia-based law firm Ballard Spahr LLP to undertake the investigation, and the Ballard firm engaged the Center for Urban and Racial Equity (CURE) to assist in its analysis.
Today, the Ballard report, including the CURE analysis, has been made public and can be found in its entirety linked here.
The investigation “has not revealed any evidence of intentional, overt racially discriminatory acts by any School Reform Commission member, Board of Education member, or Charter School Office employee against a charter leader.” The investigation also made no findings of racially discriminatory effects of the charter renewal process or that any charter school closure was improperly based.
In Philadelphia, one in three children attend charter schools, and this Board is committed to advocating on behalf of all our students, governing under one system of public education with a laser-focus on student achievement. As a District with students of color representing the majority, we know a quality educational experience includes cultural competency and that our students deserve to see school leaders who reflect the diversity of our population. Well-performing charter schools are a crucial part of our educational ecosystem. The Board recognizes that the closure of a child’s school is disruptive, and no such step is ever taken without careful consideration. We fundamentally believe our decision-making must be driven by a student-centered approach that relies on the guidance of the charter school performance framework for objective evaluation of schools’ performance and compliance with laws and regulations. For more information on the circumstances that led to nonrenewal and revocation decisions and to other school closures by the School Reform Commission or Board, see link here.
Ballard’s report includes a series of forward-looking recommendations based on Ballard’s work, opinions, and findings, to which the Board will give thoughtful consideration. The Board and Charter Schools Office have been forthcoming and receptive to feedback and input on improving our charter authorizing practices. In addition to commissioning this investigation, Board representatives have met with advocates to hear concerns and have adopted some of their recommendations to improve internal processes and communications with charter schools. Our immediate next steps will be to take some time to study the findings of the report and reflect on the recommendations that have been presented.
In closing, we want to acknowledge the efforts invested by the Ballard and CURE team. We thank them for their services and the significant time and resources dedicated to this investigation. Looking ahead, we remain committed to working in partnership with the charter sector and key partners in the best interests of students and their education.