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The fate of Walter D. Palmer Charter School

This past school year, 1,289 students, approximately 240 of whom with special needs, received an education centered around social justice, development and growth at the Walter D. Palmer Leadership Learning Partners Charter School (WDP – LLPCS) in Philadelphia, PA.

As the school has been busy rebuffing district efforts to unlawfully cap the charter’s enrollment and working to resolve financial issues, it was completely blindsided when Philly’s School Reform Commission (SRC) decided to illegally (see a pattern here?) suspend the school’s charter.

Meanwhile, parents overwhelmingly support the school, saying things like “the school is a godsend,” and “I think it’s an excellent school,” and “I recommend this school over any other public school in the district.”

Walter D. Palmer epitomizes a charter school built with the mission to serve as many underserved students as possible, and it’s criminal to try and stop them from this mission.

Back in late May, the school’s fight to stay open took an interesting turn. Blatantly ignoring due process, the SRC took steps to remove WDP – LLPCS’ charter as the school has been working diligently to resolve financial issues while still providing a viable parental choice for its students.

Unfortunately, in June, a court ruling sided with the SRC, claiming it acted properly within its power to cap enrollment of Walter D. Palmer Leadership Academy. Even Pennsylvania’s highest court has validated the destructive perception that the SRC holds inexorable power over charter schools, despite all of this being in stark contrast to state law.

Hundreds of Walter Palmer families, many of whom come from the poorest areas of Philadelphia, made their voices heard at rallies to preserve this school that some have called a “godsend.”

Currently, the Philly charter school has filed for an emergency hearing, requesting $1.4 million it says the district did not pay the school because of an enrollment dispute.

Sadly, funding for charter schools is a huge equity issue nationwide. The 2014 Survey of America’s Charter Schools finds that charter schools get 36 percent less revenue than traditional district schools. While charter schools have dealt with this reality and have proven to be more effective at delivering results for students with less funding, it makes it extremely difficult for schools like Walker Palmer’s to stay open.

UPDATE:
On Wednesday, September 24, a Common Pleas Court judge denied the school’s request for an immediate payment of $1.4 million from the Philadelphia School District. It is unclear as to what this decision will mean with regard to keeping the school open.

We’ll keep you posted.

Be sure to check back here for the latest developments on the hearing as they unfold.

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