After founder loses court case, 600 students face expulsion from Palmer charter

Usually, charter schools hold lotteries to decide who will attend. But one school held a lottery Thursday evening to find out who will have to leave.

A forced enrollment cut is just one of many problems faced by the Walter D. Palmer Charter School in Philadelphia’s Northern Liberties.

A pioneer of the local school choice movement, Walter Palmer has for years overenrolled his charter school, hoping to force the Philadelphia School District to eventually pay for the extra students.

He lost that fight in court this year. Now, almost half of Palmer’s 1,200 students have to find new schools.

Alexandra Hermann, a former teacher at Palmer, said she wishes the school had focused less on expansion and more on the students already enrolled.

“There were never enough resources for the students and classroom teachers,” Hermann said. “There was never enough copy paper. You had to buy all your own paper, all your own pencils. And that became important for some of the teachers, because we couldn’t all afford to do that all the time.”

This week’s enrollment cuts are just the beginning of Palmer’s troubles. The School Reform Commission has voted to revoke Palmer’s charter due to academic and financial problems.

And the school is so deep in debt that it might soon shut down entirely.

Palmer said he thinks the district is unfairly targeting him for challenging its enrollment caps in court, and he’s vowed to keep the school open if he can.

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