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Corporate Charters Get the Cash: Philadelphia Charter School Battle Casts Shadow Nationwide

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A recent commentary article by the president of the Philadelphia Charters for Excellence organization criticized the District for having "denied funding" to Palmer School students. In another recent commentary the executive director of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools blasted the District for wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars on "legal fees" fighting against the Palmer School.

Palmer sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan late last month requesting an investigation of "repressive measures" directed at certain of Philadelphia's 74 charter schools.

This Philadelphia School District-vs.-Palmer School clash comes at a time of renewed national attention on the topic of reforming public education, particularly with an emphasis on the asserted advantages of charter schools.

The critically acclaimed documentary movie "Waiting for Superman" extols charters in its examination of failings in American public education -- an examination many critics contend is inaccurate and oversimplified.

The director of "Superman," Davis Guggenheim, was born in 1963 nine years after Dr. Walter Palmer opened the Black People's University of Philadelphia, an independent institution providing pre-school and adult education. Palmer ran that school from 1954-1984.

While billionaires like Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey laud charters controlled by private corporations, persons like Chad Lassiter and Walter Palmer warn of threats to independent, community-based educational institutions like the Palmer School.
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Governments, local, state and federal, spend over $400-billion-dollars annually on public education, according to figures from the U.S. Department of Education.

This huge amount of public money is a gold-mine in the eyes of for-profit corporations seeking to cash-in on a desperate public desire for better schools.

"These [corporate] operatives are not concerned all of a sudden with the education of black and brown children," Lassiter observed. "Why are we not empowering the black superheroes like Walter Palmer, whose school's mission, history and philosophy are rooted in the community-based charter school movement?"
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Linn Washington is a weekly columnist for the Philadelphia Tribune and This Can't Be Happening. Washington writes frequently on inequities in the criminal justice system, ills in society and failings of the news media. He teaches multi-media urban (more...)

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