Philadelphia Board Launches Revocation Process Amid Discrimination Allegations in Charter School’s Admissions

Bipartisan Push to Raise Teacher Salaries amid a Nationwide Teachers Shortage The Philadelphia Board of Education’s has taken a bold step towards the potential closure of Franklin Towne Charter High School in response to allegations of discrimination stemming from the school’s admissions process. The board’s move follows a meeting that stretched into the late hours, culminating in the issuance of a notice of charter revocation to the school. The revocation process involves a series of investigations and hearings that could extend over a span of years.

According to Chalkbeat, central to the allegations is the claim that Franklin Towne’s admissions process was anything but impartial, allegedly engaging in systematic discrimination against students from predominantly Black neighborhoods. The school district’s recommendation to revoke the charter is based on its belief that the admissions approach ran afoul of laws, regulations, and the charter itself, leading to unequal educational access across the city.

Reginald Streater, President of the Board, underlined the board’s intent, stating, “This decision is about ensuring that the school and its leaders are complying with required laws and regulations, as well as their charter, to implement a fair and equitable admission and lottery process that allows any student from any part of the city to have an equal opportunity to access public education.” Streater expressed concerns over the integrity of a charter school that potentially cherry-picked its students.

The timing of this action coincides with the school district’s own internal evaluation of its admissions procedures for selective schools. Additionally, longstanding allegations persist that the school board exhibits bias against Black-founded and led charter schools. Janice Hatfield, spokesperson for the board, revealed that an ongoing external investigation by a law firm is ongoing, focused on allegations of racial bias within the charter school authorization process.

Brianna O’Donnell, CEO of Franklin Towne, pushed back strongly against the allegations, characterizing the revocation campaign as politically motivated. O’Donnell argued, “We believe the facts and the evidence do not support revocation,” and expressed unwavering confidence that even if the school’s charter is revoked after hearings, it would prevail on appeal.

The allegations of discrimination are rooted in an analysis revealing certain city ZIP codes, especially those with a predominant Black population, yielding no student admissions from Franklin Towne despite a considerable number of applicants from these areas. This points to a potential violation of state law and the Pennsylvania charter school law’s stipulation for random selection in cases where applications outnumber available spots.

While the revocation process unfolds, Franklin Towne Charter High School, accommodating around 1,300 students in grades nine through twelve, will continue to operate and be funded. This decision underscores broader concerns about fairness in educational access and the need for equitable admissions practices across all schools.

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