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SRC votes to revoke Palmer charter

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

The School Reform Commission tonight voted unanimously to revoke the charter of the Walter D. Palmer Leadership and Learning Charter School, which is already closed.

In financial disarray after losing a court battle with the District over enrolling students above its alloted amount, the K-8 school abruptly shut down last month during winter break. Palmer’s high school had closed in October.

The two closings left 1,250 students stranded without a school to attend.

When the District first sought to close the school last spring, the District cited declining test scores, a $3 million fund deficit, and the failure of its associated foundation to maintain nonprofit status. At a charter revocation hearing, several employees refused to answer questions about the school’s finances, repeatedly invoking the Fifth Amendment.

Palmer also failed to pay money into the teachers’ state retirement fund. It had been embroiled in a long legal battle with the District over payment for students enrolled over its allotted cap, which it ultimately lost.

The revocation vote ensures that the charter "won’t spring back to life," said SRC chairman Bill Green after the meeting.

The school can still appeal to the state, and Green said this "sets the clock ticking" on the process.

District spokesman Fernando Gallard said that, so far, 470 of the students are enrolled in a District K-8 school, 160 in a District high school, and 150 in other charters.

The rest of the students, Gallard said, could either be in non-public schools, in cyber charters that have yet to seek funds for them, in District schools but not yet counted, or not in school at all.

The vote was taken at an atypically short meeting, which lasted less than an hour. There were only 13 scheduled public speakers.

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