Franklin Towne Charter High School
Franklin Towne 64e3e5b63b0c6

Philadelphia board votes to revoke high school's charter

Aug. 21, 2023
The board voted 8-1 to send Franklin Towne Charter High School a notice of charter revocation.

The Philadelphia school has taken the first step toward closing a nationally recognized charter school that board members say discriminates in its lottery admissions system.

Chalkbeat Philadelphia reports that the board has voted to send Franklin Towne Charter High School a notice of charter revocation, kicking off what could be a years-long process of hearings and investigations.

Earlier in the week, district administrators recommended that the board start the process of revoking the school’s charter, citing evidence that Franklin Towne’s admissions process was not random and therefore may have systematically discriminated against students in majority Black neighborhoods. 

Board President Reginald Streater said if a charter school is “picking and choosing” which students they enroll, “the credibility of the subsequent successes of that charter school could potentially be called into question.”

The notice of revocation was approved 8-1.

Brianna O’Donnell, the CEO of Franklin Towne, issued a statement calling the district's action "politically motivated” and accused the district of “trying to force as many charter schools back into its budget as it can.”

Earlier this week, O’Donnell said she was “blindsided” by the district’s move to begin revoking the school’s charter.

The 1,300-student school that serves grades nine through 12 will remain open and funded during the revocation process. 

In a memo dated Aug. 14, Peng Chao, the district’s acting chief of charter schools, reported that there were 17 city ZIP codes — some of which include majority Black neighborhoods — where no students were offered admission at Franklin Towne despite 110 students from those areas applying for the upcoming school year.

Chao said his office’s analysis revealed that Franklin Towne high school “has failed to conduct a lawful and compliant admissions and lottery process for students applying to the school over the course of the charter.”

Chao also said the school’s admissions process violated the enrollment section of the Pennsylvania charter school law, which says if more students apply to the school than the number of attendance slots available, students “must be selected on a random basis.” 

Looking at a map of those ZIP codes, Board Vice President Mallory Fix-Lopez said she could only think of “a couple of words” to explain it: “offensive, redlining, racist practices.”

Franklin Towne has been accused of discrimination in the past. In 2014 and 2016, Chao said at the board meeting, the district warned the school’s leaders that they were asking for inappropriate information on their application including the special education status of potential students. 

And in 2018, the advocacy group Education Law Center - PA sent the school a letter alleging discrimination against students with Individualized Education Programs, commonly known as IEPs. The school’s lawyer denied the allegations at the time.

About the Author

Mike Kennedy | Senior Editor

Mike Kennedy, senior editor, has written for AS&U on a wide range of educational issues since 1999.

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