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SRC suspends 2 sections of school code

By the Notebook on Nov 15, 2012 08:15 PM

The School Reform Commission voted Thursday to suspend the section of the state charter law preventing the District from putting caps on charter school enrollment.

This is the latest move in a running disagreement with charter operators over the SRC's imposition of caps. The District lost a court case in April involving the Walter D. Palmer Leadership Learning Partners Charter School. Commonwealth Court ruled against the District's imposition of caps.

The SRC acted by a 4-0 vote and without discussion. But in the past, the SRC has argued that without the ability to impose enrollment caps, it would be unable to plan and that the District cannot afford uncontrolled charter growth given its dire fiscal condition.

The District has been expanding charter seats through its Renaissance Schools initiative, in which low-performing schools are converted to charters.

The SRC claims the ability to suspend the law under special powers that were given to it when the state declared the School District distressed and took it over in 2001.

It also voted 4-0 to suspend the section of the school code requiring it to hold hearings on individual school closings at least three months before the decision is finalized.

The SRC suspended this same provision last year, but only after it had identified the schools it intended to close and held extensive hearings. However, this time, the SRC has not yet identified any of the schools – it said it may have to shutter anywhere between 29 and 57.

The District's spokesperson, Fernando Gallard, said that the SRC is planning to hold hearings on school closings but wants to waive this provision to expedite the process.

Update: Citing grim financial circumstances, SRC Chairman Pedro Ramos said after the meeting that suspending the restriction on charter caps would give the District some flexibility it needs to manage the situation.

"We know that under the five-year plan, predictability is critical," Ramos said. "It's life and death."

Officials said the target date for releasing school-closing recommendations is now sometime in early December. Ramos promised an "exhaustive" process of community feedback on those recommendations similar to last year's. How the suspension of the three-month waiting period for school-closing decisions would affect the District's overall timeline for school closings was something Ramos said he did not want to speculate about.

 
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Comments (22)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 15, 2012 8:27 pm
And the blatant corruption and abuse continues...........................
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 15, 2012 9:32 pm
K. Graham tweeted external source will pay for SPI firm. didn't name who it was. Jeremy Nowak's fingerprints all over this one.
Submitted by Paul Socolar on November 15, 2012 9:46 pm

Hite announced that and said he could not yet name the firm to be hired or the external funding source.

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on November 15, 2012 9:37 pm
Is anybody past the age of reason surprised by ANYTHING they do?? Seriously, they'll do whatever they can get away with and they have the crooked pols like Corbett and his minions including Nutter giving them the green light. Tell me where I'm wrong !! Also, with all due respect, The PFT has done very little to challenge any of this or too little too late. Money Talks !!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 15, 2012 8:38 pm
So they suspend the section requiring them to provide "ample" notice regarding school closures just to be able to close a bunch of schools real fast. Great
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 15, 2012 8:29 pm
Any announcements on actual school closings? The high school application process was extended because students may be applying to school that may not exist next fall. It would be a lot easier to deal with this now than to wait until spring.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 15, 2012 11:30 pm
Exactly. They extended the high school application deadline. And students that are already nervous about high school will be placed in any more nerve wracking position if/when a high school they have chosen closes. By not announcing prior to the application deadline the district is causing an inequality in educational choices for students.
Submitted by Mayday (not verified) on November 16, 2012 6:34 pm
Parents, please use your voices NOW. The district extended the application deadline so that your children would not waste their choices on schools that will not be in existence last year. We were to know the proposed closures by November 15. The extension was therefore pointless. What a nightmare this is going to create in the spring.
Submitted by david lapp (not verified) on November 15, 2012 9:51 pm
Regarding waiving the limitation on charter enrollment caps, the real question is why has the district waited so long? They could have done this years ago and saved themselves tons in legal fees and millions more in over payments for charter enrollment. Or, on the other hand, have they now over played their hand? Will this prompt the General Assembly to take these SRC superpowers away? Or did they ask their boss, the governor, permission first?
Submitted by Joe (not verified) on November 15, 2012 9:20 pm
I believe they did not ask permission but rather were told what to do by Corbett and the shot callers about him like ALEC.
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on November 15, 2012 9:08 pm
Wow! That raises serious Constitutional questions just waiting to be litigated. The right of the people to participate in the decision-making processes of their public bodies is a due process right protected by the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution. That is why those provisions are in the Public School Code in the first place.
Submitted by Joe (not verified) on November 15, 2012 10:39 pm
The question is, will it be litigated or not and if not, we're in bigger dodo than even I thought.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 15, 2012 11:57 pm
Rather than working with the community, they decide to make these back room decisions. This will bring about several legal actions that the district can ill afford.
Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on November 16, 2012 5:04 am
The SRC, and now Dr. Hite, once again, demonstrates little respect for families regarding potential school closings. They extended the deadline for high school applications because they were going to announce school closings. Now, high school applications are due Nov. 30 but they will not announce potential schools closings to sometime in December. Meanwhile, they are limiting the time for the community to respond to the potential closings (and I assume turning schools over to more charter companies). Applying for high schools in Philadelphia is stressful for students and families. This adds to the stress. Why the delay? Why the lack of time for public comment? So much for transparency!
Submitted by ConcernedRoxParent (not verified) on November 16, 2012 10:43 am
What concerns me is that they delayed the school closing announcements until the 1st week of December, but HS applications and volunteer transfers close November 30th. I don't have a child affected by either of these things, but that is not fair to those it does effect.
Submitted by Gayle Robinson (not verified) on November 17, 2012 2:09 pm
This is where We as Parents and Tax payers of Phila. must use our voices and be heard..Stand up and be counted we have the power...
Submitted by Gayle Robinson (not verified) on November 17, 2012 2:51 pm
Use your Voice People! We must be heard their is power in our numbers that's why they are doing this underhanded trickery..
Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on November 17, 2012 9:22 pm
The charter school caps waiver is reasonable and necessary. I'm just wondering why it took them so long. Had the SRC voted on waiving the charter school cap previously? As for waiving the requirement for the SRC to hold hearings on individual school closings at least three months prior to the decision being finalized, this sounds antidemocratic and so I oppose this waiver. The bottom line is that if the District didn't have so many charters, there wouldn't be the need to close so many schools. And what about underutilized charter school buildings? Are they subject to closing? Or do the closings only apply to traditional public schools?
Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on November 18, 2012 5:55 am
The School District renewed World Communications Charter for 5 years. Their test scores are low, there is historic nepotism and the charter renewal was delayed because of very questionable book keeping (couldn't account for about $230,000 of funds). If a school with a very poor academic and fiscal track record is given a 5 year renewal, how can the SRC/ Dr. Hite close School District schools with better records?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 18, 2012 6:35 am
blame everything on charter schools. Face it, charters have been around since 1997. Until 2003, there were barely enough charter schools to cause a ripple in district finances, yet for more than 30 years the district has been a fiscal and performance nightmare. This is what you defend? Fair point on World Communications, but remember no district school has ever had to even defend its existence in a five year period. Don't forget, if the SRC can take this move with charters, they have the same power to suspend or destroy the union contract.
Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on November 18, 2012 7:38 am
There are some excellent charters in Philly - just as there are excellent School District schools. There are also charters that are allowed to continue despite many problems - more problems than in District schools. If the goal is quality schools with quality programs for all students (versus "high performing seats"), than schools should not be closed because of building conditions. What rationale will the SRC give for closing schools with quality programs while allowing schools like World Communications, PET, Imhotep, etc. to stay open? (PET and Imhotep are still under investigation for "cheating" on the PSSA. We haven't heard anything about the "cheating" investigations of charters of School District schools.... yes, it is Nov. 17.)
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 18, 2012 1:45 pm
If the SRC is foolish enough to try and suspend the union contract I hope they will have enough relatives to call upon as teachers when the real ones leave town. For all the aggravation and stress this jobs entails the money is not that great. The charters are going to be in for a real shock when they have to start accepting the headaches that public schools have been saddled with for years. The charters are not so much the problem as part of the problem. For more than ten years the administration has looked the other way while many charters did things like use school funds to pay non-school bills, run a nightclub in the school, import uncertified foreign workers, hire their own relatives, give themselves inflated salaries compared to the pathetic teacher salaries. Let's not forget that when Chester Community Charter School was caught in the cheating scandal they got a free pass thanks to their contribution to Gov. Corbett's campaign. Meanwhile the teachers in Chester are laidoff because of the incomptence of both the Democrats and Republicans who have been running that school district for years. Wake up, Philly! They are going to try to run you down.

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