This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
As Election Day nears, the two top Philadelphia mayoral candidates have separated widely in their thoughts on charter school expansion.
Democrat Jim Kenney, a former board member of Independence Charter School in Center City, believes that Harrisburg Republicans have pushed charters as a way to starve the traditional system.
"The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has a constitutional responsibility to provide a thorough and efficient education, and they do not do it, because I believe in my heart there was an effort to make everybody a charter school," said Kenney at a forum held this week. "They were taking money away from the public schools in order for the public schools to look as if they were failing, so that charter schools could come into vogue."
Philadelphia School District Superintendent William Hite is currently pushing for three city elementary schools to be converted into neighborhood-based charter schools, which would force all teachers to reapply for what would probably be nonunion jobs.
Kenney, who’s backed by the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, has privately pushed Hite to reconsider.
Kenney said he doesn’t agree with any expansion until the state brings back the budget item that helped districts pay for the added costs of charter schools.