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Charter school leaders antsy over delay on expansion vote

By Dale Mezzacappa on Jun 15, 2010 12:38 PM

While the School Reform Commission is planning to vote on 11 charter school renewals Wednesday, it has announced that it won't get to the requests of 22 charters to change their grade configuration or expand. The next SRC meeting is August 15, which is late for planning for a school year that starts in September.

Charter schools are frustrated. CEO of KIPP Philadelphia Marc Mannella sent out an email Monday that said "if there is no vote on June 16, KIPP Philadelphia's high school and elementary school will not open in the 2010-2011 school year."

Benjamin Rayer, chief of the District's Charter, Partnership and New Schools Office, said that SRC members want to get renewals finished before considering any expansions. Some members want to know how much money the District will get from the state and whether the charter school reimbursement rate is reduced before committing to expansions, he said.

Rayer said that 28 charter schools had applied for expansion, and 22 of them were deemed qualified.

The state has not yet approved a 2010-11 budget, and the final amount of state basic education aid is a matter of contention.

"We're trying to do it as fast as we can," Rayer said.

Mannella urged supporters of KIPP to call SRC members and Superintendent Arlene Ackerman and to flood the meeting on Wednesday. "We are not going to sit idly by as the desires, hopes, and dreams of our families and communities are ignored," he wrote in an email to supporters. He said that 300 students are on high school and elementary school waiting lists. KIPP now runs two middle schools in the city. "There is no second chance for these 300 children to attend a KIPP school -- this is their final shot," he wrote.

Other charter operators have been reluctant to speak out, but say that August 15 is too late to buy materials, renovate space, and adequately plan for the next school year.

The SRC is scheduled to hold a meeting in mid-July to deal with short-term borrowing and could conceivably add charter expansion to the agenda then -- which could be after a state budget is adopted, should the Legislature meet the June 30 deadline. But that has not happened in any of the seven years Ed Rendell has been governor and the odds of it happening this year are debatable.

It is also conceivable that the SRC could decide not to renew some of the charters, which would open up some seats for expansions.

The 11 include some of the city's biggest charter success stories and some that have struggled.

Schools up for renewal are:

  • Delaware Valley Charter HS
  • Folk Arts-Cultural Treasures CS
  • Independence CS
  • Mastery CHS (Lenfest Campus)
  • Mastery CS - Thomas Campus
  • Northwood Academy CS
  • People for People CS
  • Richard Allen Preparatory CS
  • Russell Byers CS
  • Wakisha CS
  • Walter D. Palmer Leadership Learning Partners CS
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Comments (10)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 15, 2010 3:11 pm

KIPP just sent a message around to their supporters saying that at least ONE SRC member is going to bat for them. They also have been talking to politicians in the type of back door nonsense that our kids don't deserve.

Submitted by sigh (not verified) on June 15, 2010 3:30 pm

They said no expansions. So, I wonder if they can stick to their words, or will they bow down to their corporate cronies? I'm assuming that they will go with the Wal-Mart sponsored KIPP.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 15, 2010 9:54 pm

Be careful with words, perhaps some parents work there.

Submitted by cure premature ejaculation (not verified) on September 28, 2012 5:17 pm

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Submitted by I WONDER (not verified) on June 15, 2010 3:30 pm

I wonder which SRC member has said they will "walk on" this item. I don't get to walk on when I don't have paper, or when my students are cheated of a decent education. KIPP is on the horn with their political cronies, while the rest of us wait for our fair turn.

Submitted by Who gets to "walk on?" (not verified) on June 15, 2010 4:11 pm

I was at the SRC meeting when they mysteriously and abruptly pulled the ratification of West Philly HS's School Advisory Council choice for their turnaround partner, saying that there was some unexplainable 'conflict of interest.' I didn't see those parents and concerned community members being able to "walk on" their agenda after the SRC walked it off. In fact, I heard hardworking mothers be considered as having a 'conflict of interest' because they were given $8 an hour.

But now, KIPP, with all of its local, state, and national political connections, is entitled to "walk on" its self-serving expansion, after the SRC has already moved to not hear it? And an SRC member is "going to bat" for them? I wonder what type of conflict of interest might be found out by poking around a little?

It is far time that the public dollars spent on education stop being poured into the pockets of private, outside companies. We need to focus our attention on the positive school transformation that communities have been demanding for decades, not the shirking of responsibility and outsourcing our schools to anyone who'll take them.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 15, 2010 9:37 pm

So many of our children in Philadelphia are suffering. They have limited or no access to a proper education. Those who have been properly educated, sit by and discuss/argue over when, where or who the money comes from. Just please give the children acess.

Submitted by ddct (not verified) on June 15, 2010 11:29 pm

Expansion was delayed last year because Superintendent Ackerman was "new" and had to study the situation. So, eligible and deserving schools (and anxious parents and children) waited--quietly so as not to ruffle the feathers of the SRC who holds all the cards. Of course charter operators are reluctant to complain too loudly.

This year there are "new" SRC members who, they say, must focus on charter renewals (as they should) but therefore cannot review the Charter Office expansion recommendations until after their vacations. Meanwhile, because August 15 is too late for many schools to adequately budget and prepare for the Fall, this delay may deny quality education to thousands of children. Are there other reasons than those stated for this reluctance to allow the best charters to expand?

Let's hope that the SRC modifies its position, rolls up its sleeves at the beginning of Summer, and allows schools who deserve it to expand their rolls.

Submitted by Jose A. Ramirez (not verified) on June 18, 2010 8:54 am

I am a parent at Independence Charter School and my wife and I worked very hard to help the School gain the reputation that it now has. The School Charter is up for renewal. We both believe that there are serious issues of discrimination at the School. There is basically no representation of minorities at the Board of Trustees and the School has had serious issues with Hispanic Staff as well as lack of Black teachers. We are extremely disappointed by the School and will pull out our daughter from the School next year. We have written to the Charter School Office and welcome the City Controller efforts to try to make the system more transparent.

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