Philadelphia News & Search
Staff members at the troubled Khepera Charter School in North Philadelphia could get some of the pay they are owed this month.
The Philadelphia School District this week sent the charter school a partial payment of $172,906 of the nearly $400,000 scheduled for July. The district withheld some of the funds to recover money Khepera owed for failing to make required contributions to the state teachers’ retirement fund.
Last month, teachers and staff at the charter school received no paychecks after the district withheld Khepera ‘s entire payment of $370,570 for June. The district said the charter owed it more than that amount for missed pension payments.
Under state law, when a charter school fails to make pension payments, the money is deducted from funds the district receives from the state. The district then recovers the money by withholding the amount from charter payments.
But it’s unclear when — or if — Khepera’s staff will see any money from the charter school that ended the year early last month. Although teachers work 10 months a year, their salaries are spread out over 12 months.
Some employees who had quit before June are still waiting to collect money owed for summer pay and personal days. One said Friday that the phone number for the school’s business officer is no longer working and neither is the email for the chair of the charter school board.
A representative for the union that represents 16 Khepera employees could not be reached for comment.
Faced with the absence of a June payment and a landlord’s threat to evict the school for nonpayment of rent and fees, the K-8 charter with 450 students closed down in early June.
A few days later, the School Reform Commission voted to revoke Khepera’s operating agreement for financial and academic failures. A hearing has been scheduled for Aug. 10.
“This is new territory as Philadelphia has not faced a situation like this before,” Kevin Geary, a district spokesman, said Friday. “Khepera Charter School is in the process of being evicted by its landlord, has not secured a new facility to educate children for the start of school, has not paid its staff for weeks, does not have a current CEO/school leader, and has children leaving the school.”
Geary, who said the district has been helping families find new schools for their children, added: “Yet the taxpayers must continue to make hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments to Khepera, even though questions remain if they will open for the next school year.”
State law permits charter schools to continue to operate and to collect funds, pending the outcome of revocation proceedings.
Philadelphia News & Search