Charter and cyber school supporters gather for brainstorming breakfast at Imhotep

Faced with budget cuts and looming school closures, more than 20 school-choice leaders gathered at Imhotep Institute Charter High School in East Germantown on Thursday to discuss the current state of charter schools and consider ways that parents’ voices can be heard.

The Parent Leadership Breakfast was hosted by the Philadelphia Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO), which says it aims to increase access to high-quality educational options for low-income and working-class black families.

Darlene Callands, BAEO’s chapter president and CEO, said the event was intentionally planned for National Choice Month to emphasize the importance of parent involvement in alternative schools.

“Until we put the power in the hands of the parents, we are going to continue falling to the status quo,” said Callands. “We have to make sure the parents have a strong voice in the movement. It starts with working with the leaders so they can go back to their prospective schools and begin to raise the parents’ voice in this movement.”

The discussions

Kicking off the breakfast, the group brainstormed ideas to benefit all Philadelphia schools. Participants focused on phrases like high expectations, consistency, teacher accountability, commitment, engagement and parental persistence and involvement.

State Rep. Dwight Evans, who lists authoring the state’s Charter School law in 1997 on his website’s accomplishments page, attended the event. He added the word “organized” to the brainstorming list and warned that the economic squeeze on public schools will eventually trickle down to alternative schools.

That is something to which Monica Allison, president of the Pennsylvania Families for Public Cyber Schools, can attest. She said she’s already seen funding cuts, while other schools have seen troubled times as well.

“We need to account for the dollars that are actually going into the schools,” said Allison. “I know our public school district always blames the cyber and the charter schools for taking money away from them, but the fact is the money should follow the child.”

Allison volunteered to join the parental coalition, citing a need to streamline accurate information.

“Even in this small room you can see that each individual brick-and-mortar school doesn’t really associate with each other,” she said. “Each individual cyber school doesn’t associate with each other, but parents need to be able to associate with other parents so that choice is still available.”

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