Council member Isaiah Thomas introduced a resolution to hold a hearing on whether the district school has discriminated against black-led charter schools. The hearing was held on December 6th, 2023 (Photo: Jared Piper, City Council Photographer)

Philadelphia, PA – On December 6, 2023, the Philadelphia City Council office held a hearing on bias against Black-led charters.  
Ballard Spahr, the law firm, identified a charter school authorizing and renewal process it deemed flawed and problematic, potentially exposing the district to bias accusations. However, the firm found no evidence of intentional discrimination against Black-led charters in its report from 2010 to 2021.  
Simultaneously, the legal firm suggested modifications, such as enhancing transparency in the charter process and providing anti-bias training for Board of Education members. The 132 page – report
The question is whether it is acceptable to accept discrimination and racism, intentional or not.  Systemic racism and bias against black charter schools eliminate educational options and one of the few educational choices available to black families in Philadelphia. Having the opportunity to study in a school other than the existing public system is a choice and a right that the school board is mandated to make equally available to all children, irrespective of color.  Any inequity, intentional or not, is unacceptable.    
Council member Isaiah Thomas responded a few questions: 
The 132-page report released in October found “no intentional acts of racial discrimination or bias; what do you think about this?  
Councilmember Isaiah Thomas:«I am not a lawyer; I am not the messenger in this, but the key word here is intentional. Just because it was not intentional does not mean it did not exist. The report shows examples and situations in institutions that were not necessarily treated right, and the report also offers recommendations because we know there are disproportional things that impact families.  
For you, why is it important to have Afrocentric schools and education? 

Councilmember Isaiah Thomas: Afrocentric schools and education offer a unique experience that no other type of school could offer. I will not say it is better or worse, and I apologize for that. At the end of the day, finding the right school for that child and what fits that family is essential. What you get at an Afrocentric school, from the uniform, with the language, to the culture, is a totally different experience. Also, those schools have more opportunities to offer employment to people of color and are an extensive ecosystem that is impacted when decisions are made.  For me, the importance of getting a quality education is everything. Poverty is one of the most significant issues we have right now; the only way to move the needle is to educate our new generation. When they become adults, they can be productive members of the world. 

In Philadelphia, a diverse city where 43% identify as black, 16. 1 % Latino, or 8.2 %, identifies as Asian; there is zero tolerance for racial discrimination or bias, be it intentional or unintentional; the moment has come to recognize and repair any broken systems, forging a path toward equal access for all residents, regardless of race. 

Lili Daliessio is the Community Information Manager at Esperanza Housing and Economic Development.


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