Parents in Chester Upland ask court to suspend charter school conversion process, conducted in secret

December 4, 2020 — Today, parents and a community organization in Chester Upland School District (CUSD) filed an emergency motion to suspend a process to outsource the entire district’s operations and schools to charter operators. This request for proposals (RFP) process has taken place in secret, with no public notice and no opportunities for parents and other community members to weigh in—violating court-ordered requirements. In addition, the RFP itself, issued on October 26, does not comply with state law requiring bidders to provide alternatives for students who do not wish to attend charter schools, and it does not require an evaluation of whether or not a bidder will provide a higher quality education than district schools, including for students with disabilities.

Parents Jazmine Campos, Latoya Jones, Tiffany Raymond, Precious Scott, and the Delaware County Advocacy & Resource Organization are represented by the Public Interest Law Center and the Education Law Center-PA. In February, the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas granted their petition to intervene and participate in the evaluation of the charter conversion plan.

Read our emergency motion to suspend the RFP process here.

“No school district in Pennsylvania has ever transferred its schools entirely to charter operators,” said Claudia De Palma, staff attorney at the Public Interest Law Center. “Such a radical measure, affecting thousands of students, absolutely cannot be considered behind closed doors. Parents need to be part of this process.”

On May 14, Delaware County Court of Common Pleas Judge Barry Dozor allowed CUSD’s receive to move forward with an RFP process to transfer management of the district and its schools to charter operators, as part of the district’s financial recovery plan. The judge’s order contained several requirements to ensure that the process was transparent and considered educational quality—not just cost savings. The ruling required the receiver to:

  • release audits of school district finances
  • post the RFPs, and any requests for information, publicly, on the district’s website
  • conduct the process in a public manner and regularly submit status reports
  • draft an RFP that ensures that any charter operator is evaluated on their ability to effectively educate all students, including students with disabilities, compared with CUSD

None of these requirements have been met. Parents only learned of the existence of the RFP on November 19—more than three weeks after it was issued—when it was attached as an exhibit in a court filing from Chester Community Charters Schools, the districts’ largest current charter school operator. The filing also describes a request for information issued on July 30 and a forum for bidders—neither of which were publicly announced, or even shared with the parents who had been allowed by the court to participate in this process.

Chester Community Charter School (CCCS) filed the first request for the receiver in Chester Upland to consider a large-scale charter conversion in the district in November 2019. The charter operator has worse academic scores in its current schools that many of those operated by CUSD. Because of their filing in response to the RFP, CCCS is the only potential bidder known to be involved in this RFP process. Under the current RFP, bids are due on December 14, 2020.

In addition to the emergency motion to suspend the RFP process, the parents and community organization filed a response to CCCS’s filing. They also filed a motion to compel the receiver to conduct an RFP process that complies with the requirements in the May 14 court order, allows for public participation, and fully considers educational quality.

Read our answer to the CCCS motion here.

Read our motion to compel compliance with the court’s May 14, 2020 order here.