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The Valley Forge Classical Academy Seeking Signatures for its Appeal

The Valley Forge Classical Academy, which the West Chester Area School Board has twice turned down, is collecting signatures to appeal to the state Charter School Board.

Despite a thorough and complete application that demonstrates full alignment of the VFCA curriculum to the Pennsylvania state standards and meets all of the Charter School Law requirements, the West Chester Area School District denied the Charter Application, the charter school board said in a press release. The next step is to appeal the board’s decision to the State Charter Appeals Board.

To secure a hearing, 1,500 signatures from WCASD residents are required. They have crews ready to get your signature at local home doors and businesses.

The proposed charter school would be a public school offering a classical American curriculum. VFCA Board President Jen MacFarland gave a presentation on the new charter at a July 2023 meeting. The school would use a curriculum developed by Hillsdale College that emphasizes classic literature, Singapore Math, Latin, and phonics. The history program would be Hillsdale’s 1776 curriculum, which teaches good and bad things that happened in America.

Charter schools offer students alternatives to public schools and are supported by tax dollars, so students do not pay tuition.

Supporters hope to open the new school this fall.

“We are committed to seeing this through, but we need YOU [emphasis original]. Working together, we can make this school a reality for your kids!” the VFCA board said on Facebook.

“For parents, taxpayers, and most of all our students, everyone should support having multiple good school options so that every child has a chance to succeed. VFCA is using a proven curriculum—and once opened, it will help improve the quality of education for everyone in the great West Chester area.”

West Chester resident Beth Ann Rosica, a parent and education writer, said, “I support the right of every parent to have a choice in educational options for their children. Public schools cannot be expected to meet the unique needs of all students; therefore, charter schools are an essential part of the solution. Not all parents can afford private school tuition, so charter schools fill an important role in providing options to children and families.

“Additionally, I believe that the current mechanism for approving charter schools is flawed. Currently, charter schools must be approved by the local public school district, and if denied, they can appeal to the state for approval.  This system sets up a potentially adversarial relationship, and this conflict could be resolved through a state approval process,” Rosica said.

About 10 core people are helping with the petitions, along with other volunteers. Please get in touch with Valley Forge Classical Academy for more information: 610-730-6931.

PA Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Chester Water Appeal in Aqua Case

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court Monday granted the Chester Water Authority’s request to file an appeal of a Commonwealth Court’s ruling in its ongoing dispute over Aqua America’s plan to purchase the municipal water system.

In an order of “allocatur” — a petition to an appellate court for permission to be allowed to file an appeal— the Supreme Court said it would let Chester Water appeal on two issues in its dispute with Aqua and the City of Chester. Specifically:

  • Does the city of Chester have the right to seize the Chester Water Authority’s (CWA) assets and sell them?
  • Did the Commonwealth Court err in allowing someone other than the CWA to control the transfer of its assets?

“We’re very grateful the court has agreed to address these questions,” said CWA solicitor Frank Catania. “It’s important to preserve the public’s control of their drinking water. It’s fundamental to human life.”

Aqua America has made a $410 million bid for the water system, which serves 49,000 customers in 33 towns in Delaware and Chester Counties. The company is pledging to keep the 200,000 current CWA customers’ rates flat for a decade. Make the deal, Essential Utilities Chairman and CEO Chris Franklin told Delaware Valley Journal in October, and “there will be no movement in what the customer pays.”

CWA and its allies call that pledge hollow and they point to communities like New Garden, Pa., where ratepayers say the sale of their wastewater system to Aqua led to soaring sewer bills. “Aqua is a lot of talk,” said Margo Woodacre, co-founder of KWA – Keep Water Affordable — in New Garden.

In September, the Commonwealth Court ruled 5-2 that the City of Chester controlled the CWA and its assets, despite a 2012 law that added additional governance of the CWA from Delaware and Chester Counties.

Now CWA can go to the Supreme Court and get a final ruling on the question of whether the authority is a stand-alone agency or a subset of the city. That is particularly important because the city is operating under state receivership due to its disastrous fiscal condition.

“We look forward to the opportunity to present our arguments to the court,” Catania said. “It’s very important that these issues be resolved.”

The organization Save CWA also released a statement:

“CWA appreciates that the PA Supreme Court acknowledges the significance of this issue. There is nothing more important than the public’s control over their Pennsylvania constitutionally-granted natural resources including their water. CWA also thanks their board, their employees, their ratepayers, the elected officials, and the public who keep this issue at the forefront.”

Aqua did not respond to a request for comment.


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Downingtown Area School District Election Case Appealed to PA Supreme Court

A Downingtown Area School Board election dispute may determine the standing of Pennsylvania’s law regarding mail-in ballot errors.

At issue is whether election officials should follow the letter of the law or allow some leeway in counting problematic mail-in votes. Sam Stretton, a lawyer for Area 4 Democrat candidate Rebecca Britton told Delaware Valley Journal he is appealing a divided Commonwealth Court ruling to the state Supreme Court.

“It’s a very important issue,” said Stretton. And it not only affects his client, but will clarify election law statewide. “In election law we lean toward a liberal interpretation to protect the right to vote. There’s no evidence of fraud.”

Not so fast, says Michael Taylor, who represents Republican candidate Margie Miller, who will be the winner without the six disputed ballots.

Taylor said that the Commonwealth Court panel has correctly “affirmed the decision of the Chester County Board of Elections to disqualify the six ballots.”

While a recent ruling had three different opinions, a majority of the judges ruled the ballots should be thrown out, he said.

“Our elections are the bedrock of our republic and must be governed by the rule of law,” said Taylor. “Every vote that is legally cast should be counted. That is what was done in this school board race, and Margie Miller is the new director to the Downingtown School Board. Margie has won the contest at the Board of Elections, the Court of Common Pleas, and now, the Commonwealth Court. However, we have sadly heard that Rebecca Britton will now ask the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to overturn the election.

“Ms. Britton’s decision to continue with these legal challenges does a disservice to the citizens of Region 4,” said Taylor. “DASD is in the process of deciding many major issues. Besides dealing with the surge in COVID, the school district is deciding whether to build a new school or refurbish others. Region 4 is not at the discussions or able to cast a vote while Ms. Britton continues with these legal fights. The Miller campaign is weighing its options.”

Miller said, “With only four votes separating my opponent and myself, this has been quite a journey and an education. I am a teacher, not a politician. My intention upon running was to be an advocate for our children and a voice for the residents of region 4. At this moment, there is no voice nor representation for region 4. With the election uncertified and being appealed at the State level, my constituents are left with no vote or say in any matters or plans pertaining to DASD. It is a case of taxation without representation. Although I receive correspondence and calls from constituents, I have to answer as Director-Elect. I encourage them to write to all board members as I am unable to speak for them at this time.

“I enjoy connecting and emailing with the people of Downingtown. Th1ey are very candid, concerned, and truly want what is best for our community,” she said. “They also thank me profusely for responding to them – they appreciate knowing that they are heard. The people of region 4 have spoken – I won in November, I won at the county level, and I won in Commonwealth Court. Patience is my mantra.

“I cannot wait to serve the residents of region 4,” Miller added. “I respect and thank the judges who have given their expertise and verdicts thus far. I respect and thank all of my many supporters who are eager to witness my swearing-in. I am confident this will come to fruition in a prompt manner.”

Britton declined to comment.



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Montgomery County D.A. Appeals Cosby Case to U.S. Supreme Court

Depending on what the U.S. Supreme Court decides, Bill Cosby’s taste of freedom may be brief.

On Monday, Montgomery County D.A. Kevin Steele announced he is asking it to review the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the famous comedian and actor’s conviction.

“Petitioning to ask the High Court to review was the right thing to do because of the precedent set in this case by the majority opinion of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that prosecutors’ statements in press releases now seemingly create immunity,” said Steele in a press release. “This decision as it stands will have far-reaching negative consequences beyond Montgomery County and Pennsylvania. The U.S. Supreme Court can right what we believe is a grievous wrong.”

Some 60 women have accused the octogenarian of sexually assaulting them over the years. In 2017, a Montgomery County jury found him guilty of charges related to his treatment of then-Temple University employee Andrea Constand. She claimed Cosby drugged and assaulted her in his Elkins Park mansion in 2004. A judge subsequently sentenced him to three to 10 years in prison. He spent just over two years behind bars.

The state Supreme Court held in June that Cosby should never have been tried in the case because a previous prosecutor (Bruce L. Castor Jr.) sanctioned a “non-prosecution agreement” with the actor. “In light of these circumstances, the subsequent decision by successor D. A.s to prosecute Cosby violated Cosby’s due process rights.”

Cosby was promptly released and was soon back at his home, flashing reporters the victory sign.

Asked to comment, Andrew Wyatt, a spokesman for Cosby said, “Unwilling to accept (his) epic loss in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the Montgomery County District Attorney has now filed a Petition for a Writ of Certiorari to the United States Supreme Court. In short, the Montgomery County D.A. asks the United States Supreme Court to throw the Constitution out the window, as it did, to satisfy the #metoo mob.

“There is no merit to the DA’s request which centers on the unique facts of the Cosby case and has no impact on important federal questions of law,” said Wyatt. “The United States Supreme Court does not typically interfere with the rulings of a State’s high court unless it conflicts with the decisions of other state high courts or our federal court of appeals. This is a pathetic last-ditch effort that will not prevail. The Montgomery County’s DA’s fixation with Mr. Cosby is troubling, to say the least.”

But Steele contends the Cosby case opened the door for future plaintiffs to argue they may not be prosecuted based on a prosecutor’s press release, even if new evidence is found.

“This Court, not the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, should be the one to decide whether Cosby’s drastic expansion of (a previous case) is appropriate and whether its dramatic shift in law about prosecutorial statements should continue through our court systems,” said Steele in his pleading to the high court. “The issue is important because other courts have rejected the idea that press releases are bilateral agreements or issued as anything more than an administrative task. Under Cosby’s rationale, the accused in those cases now have transactional immunity, regardless of any potentially new evidence coming to light and regardless of whether the accused’s reliance on the statements was reasonable.”

Steele told the high court “Cosby is a dangerous precedent. A prosecution announcement not to file charges should not trigger due process protections against future criminal proceedings because circumstances could change, including new incriminating statements by the accused. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that due process makes detrimental reliance on a decision not to prosecute constitutionally enforceable, regardless of reasonableness. Detrimental reliance, according to that court, transforms a mere decision not to prosecute, or even the absence of a decision to prosecute, into a promise of non-prosecution with a constitutional guarantee. A suspect need only rely to his detriment to ratify his immunity to future prosecution. That is quite an attractive proposition, not only to celebrities like Cosby, but to all manner of garden-variety litigants.”

Castor declined to comment. It is unclear whether the U.S. Supreme Court will agree to hear Montgomery County’s appeal.


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