In an email that went out today, the Philadelphia School District's Charter Office requested that new charter applicants sign a waiver giving the School Reform Commission until June 1 to vote on their applications. That's more than three months longer than allowed by Pennsylvania's Charter School Law. According to that law, the authorizing body — in this case the SRC — must vote on applications within 75 days of the first hearing. That deadline is in mid-February. The public is allowed to submit written comment until Feb. 1 by emailing email@example.com.
In the email, the District asks for more time "due to the unprecedented number of applications it received." This is Philadelphia's first round of charter applications in seven years, bringing in a total of 40 proposals from 29 charter providers for new schools. The District must now field new applications annually, thanks to an amendment added to last year's $2-per-pack cigarette-tax bill by State Rep. John Taylor (R-Philadelphia).
Even with the extended deadline, there would still be time to get schools off the ground, according to School District spokesman Fernando Gallard. He said that 16 of the 29 providers are asking to start in time for the 2016-17 school year. A June 1 decision would still give those applicants about a year to renovate buildings, hire staff, and generally prepare before starting instruction.