Two new charter schools might appear in Penn’s zip code in the near future.
Forty organizations submitted applications for new charter schools to the Charter Schools Office of the School District of Philadelphia, with at least one application coming from every ZIP code in West Philadelphia.
The flurry of applications is the result of the stipulation tacked on to the $2-a-pack cigarette tax legislation passed in September. The law requires charter school applications to be accepted yearly by the school district and makes it easier to appeal when the School Reform Commission rejects an application.
The district has not accepted any applications for new charters since 2008, district spokesman Fernando Gallard said.
The applications will be reviewed with the help of outside experts, although the school district has not yet released the names or affiliations of the experts.
Public hearings for each application will be held within 40 days, and then the SRC will have 75 days to vote on each proposal.
The two proposals for schools nearby Penn are from operators already established in Philadelphia. One, the Independence Charter School, hopes to expand beyond its existing K-8 school in Center City to create the Independence Charter High School by 2016.
The Community Education Alliance of West Philadelphia applied to open Belmont Charter High School in 2015. This would be in addition to Belmont Charter School for grades K-8 and Belmont Academy Charter School for pre-kindergarten children already located in the area.
”We believe if we have a high school we will have almost no kids drop out,” founder of Belmont Charter Michael Karp said.
Karp speculates the district will approve about 10 charters, optimistically 15. Karp hopes that their aim to be a replicable model and non-violent school culture will count in their favor. “We’re looking not to be a bunch of schools — we’re just there to be a school for our community,” he said.
Critics of charter schools say that in a budget crisis, critical funds for school districts shouldn’t be taken away from public schools. Comparisons between the academic performance of students at charter and public schools also don’t necessarily indicate that charter schools provide better education.
Pennsylvania State Senator James Roebuck’s April 2014 Charter & Cyber Charter School Reform Update reported that for 2012-2013, 51 percent of the charters open 10 or more years scored less than the minimal level of academic success.
However, Philadelphia School Partnership Director Mark Gleason said in a press release that he believes allowing the charter operators at high performing schools to open more schools creates opportunities for more students to attend “an effective school.”
“The opportunity to create effective new charter schools is great news for low-income and minority families in Philadelphia,” Gleason said.
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