This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Philadelphia School District officials say time is running out for ASPIRA of Pennsylvania to resolve a host of fiscal concerns that could jeopardize its future as one of the city’s largest charter providers.
"We’ve had numerous requests for them to provide information and address those concerns," said Lauren Thum of the District’s Charter School Office. "And while we received verbal indication that they are working on them, they have not submitted anything officially in writing back to us in response."
Thum said the District’s concerns are significant enough that they could affect ASPIRA’s request to renew its charter for one of its five Philadelphia schools, Stetson Elementary – a process that will begin in early 2015.
"If we have serious concerns in the financial space, that gets factored into renewal decisions," she said. Such concerns could affect not only ASPIRA’s request to renew the Stetson charter, but its four other schools as well, she said.
Thum said that the situation had reached the point where officials are unable to say for sure whether ASPIRA is spending all of its charter school dollars in the schools themselves or whether some is being siphoned off for other purposes.
"We can’t say for sure whether or not that’s happening," Thum said.
ASPIRA officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In a recent Facebook post, however, the school defended its financial practices. The post appeared soon after the Philadelphia Daily News reported that an ASPIRA contractor was paid more than $160,000 for painting at Olney High — work that school staff said was actually done by teachers and the maintenance crew.
"Within the past year and one-half, ASPIRA and ASPIRA schools have had 26 financial audits/inquiries completed or begun for our various schools and programs at the local, state and federal levels," ASPIRA wrote in the Facebook post. "No instances of fiscal mismanagement have been found, reported, or disseminated by the various regulatory bodies and audit firms that have performed these audits/inquires."