The Brief: What the Mayoral Candidates Are Saying About Charter Expansion

Spoiler: Most don't want it.

School District of Philadelphia

Today’s the day the Philadelphia School Reform Commission must decide the fate of 39 applications to create new charter schools.

It’s not an easy decision, at least politically: Republican leaders in the state legislature want the SRC to give a thumbs-up many of the applications. Gov. Tom Wolf is reportedly pushing for the SRC to approve none of them. And the nonprofit Philadelphia School Partnership has offered $35 million to the school district if the SRC signs off on enough charters to enroll 15,000 students.


The Democratic candidates for mayor, meanwhile, have been quick to take positions on the issue.

Former City Councilman Jim Kenney, former District Attorney Lynne Abraham and former city solicitor Nelson Diaz all released statements to the news media this week calling on the SRC to shoot down the applications. Former Philadelphia Gas Works vice president Doug Oliver also told the Inquirer the SRC should reject the proposals. (He offered a slightly more nuanced view yesterday when Citified sat down with him for a long interview, which will be published later this week.) Ex-con/former state Sen. Milton Street wants an outright moratorium on charter school expansion in the future.

State Sen. Anthony Williams, the poster child for school choice, is the only mayoral candidate who has not come out against the applications, saying in a statement, “A blanket moratorium on charter expansion makes a nice headline, but it’s really just a political solution to an education problem.” He also said the SRC should consider taking the PSP’s money.

The positioning by the candidates is revealing. Williams could have distanced himself from the PSP, a controversial group, or tempered his stance on charter schools. He chose not to. And it’s as clear as ever that Williams, the consensus frontrunner in the race, has a bullseye on his back, as all of the candidates appear to be casting themselves, to some extent, as the anti-Williams. A few of the hopefuls have also started attacking Williams.

Don’t Miss …
  • Will the city’s Republican Party endorse a mayoral candidate? The three contenders who made a pitch to GOP ward leaders on Tuesday aren’t well-known (and that’s being polite): Melissa Murray BaileySean Clark and Elmer Money.
  • Street was scheduled to launch his mayoral campaign Tuesday, but he postponed the kickoff for March 5 because of the weather forecast. He was planning on talking about how Council’s decision to not move forward with Mayor Michael Nutter‘s proposed sale of the Philadelphia Gas Works was “one of the worst, most critical mistakes made in years,” how he would “put a moratorium on charter school expansion,” and more.
  • Leaks, leaks everywhere! The Pennsylvania Supreme Court is thinking about disciplining an attorney for Attorney General Kathleen Kane for — you guessed it — releasing a sealed order to reporters.