The Brief: How Some Charter Schools Keep Out the Riff-Raff

Plus, Anthony Williams shows off his top-tier allies, and big national names woo Josh Shapiro for U.S. Senate.

School District of Philadelphia1. How Some Charter Schools Keep Out the Riff-Raff

The Gist: This is an important, well-reported story from WHYY’s Kevin McCorry, that’s not easily condensed into a sentence or two. Be sure to check out it out. In summary, McCorry explores how some charter schools inflate their numbers—graduation rates, college placement, test scores and so on—by not replacing the large volume of kids who drop out.

Why It Matters: A lot of reasons. One of the biggest is that this story—and the practices it documents—reveals what Kelly Davenport, head of school at Freire Charter, calls a “central tension” of public education. McCorry quotes Davenport saying:

“Is the city calling Freire charter school to educate all kids, every kid, and provide a basic, standard education that will fit all of their needs—sort of a one-size fits all, with a basic graduation diploma?” she said. “Or is the city asking us to produce kids that have the grit and tenacity and ability to persevere through rigor and really challenging academic work?”

Davenport says, ideally, she aims to run a school that gives all students that ability. But she acknowledged that, so far, ditching the neighborhood school enrollment model has been a part of Freire’s success.

A lot of charter operators think charters should do as district schools do, and fill openings immediately from their (often long) waiting lists. Other charter operators, like Davenport, disagree. More than anything, the story makes it clear that stacking up charter schools like Freire against district schools is in no way an apples-to-apples comparison.

2. Anthony Williams Touts Endorsements From Eight City Pols

The Gist: The Williams campaign trotted out an array of Philadelphia pols Thursday afternoon, in a attempt to show that he too has a lot of big time supporters. Who was at Williams’ side? State senators Shirley Kitchen and Larry Farnese, Council members Maria Quiñones Sánchez, Jannie L. Blackwell, Kenyatta Johnson and Curtis Jones Jr., and state representatives Jason Dawkins and Jordan Harris.

Why It Matters: Williams told the Inquirer the press conference was in no way a response to Jim Kenney’s event earlier this week, where it was announced he’d have the support of the “Northwest Coalition,” a political faction headed by State Rep. Dwight Evans and Councilwoman Marian Tasco. But that’s exactly what it was. Williams was eager to remind people that he too has a lot of establishment support. Why is that important? Establishment support is one of the reasons Williams has been considered the favorite by many political observers. If it starts to appear that Kenney has Williams matched or beat on that score, Williams’ star could fade.

3. Are National Dems Wooing Montgomery County’s Josh Shapiro to Run for Senate?

The Gist: Citing an Associated Press report, the Inquirer’s Jonathan Tamari writes that Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro has “fielded calls from Democratic leaders urging him to jump into the race for U.S. Senate.” The article says Shapiro has gotten calls from New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, the favorite to replace Harry Reid as the Democratic leader in the Senate, and Montana Sen. Jon Tester (D., Mont.), who is leading Democrats’ 2016 Senate election efforts.

Why It Matters: The report is yet another sign that Shapiro’s star is rising fast in a state Democratic party hungry for new blood. It’s also an indication that Pennsylvania’s Democratic leaders aren’t the only ones uneasy about the prospect of a rematch between GOP Senator Pat Toomey and Democratic challenger Joe Sestak, who lost narrowly to Toomey in 2012.