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PENNSYLVANIA: Phila. revamps its charter school policy

policyAmid mounting financial pressure from charter schools, the Philadelphia School District Friday unveiled a revised charter policy proposal that uses a carrot-and-stick approach.

The draft calls for giving greater autonomy to charter schools that comply with district rules and cracking down on those that do not.

The district intends to weigh the financial impact of new charter applicants and existing charter schools’ requests to expand enrollment, limit expansions to high-performing schools, and assess charter schools’ performance each year.

“The purpose of this is to ensure that all charter school options in the city are high-quality options for parents of students,” Deputy Superintendent Paul Kihn said.

He said giving charter schools feedback every year, instead of waiting five years until they are up for renewal, would give struggling schools early warning.

Kihn also said annual monitoring would let the School Reform Commission act more quickly to revoke the charters of schools that are foundering or not following state law.

Once a school has exhausted its revocation appeals, the new policy would give the SRC the option of handing the school over to another nonprofit group to operate, to minimize disruption for students and their families.

This year, 67,315 city students are enrolled in charter schools. Most of them attend the 86 schools in the city, although nearly 7,000 are enrolled in cyber charter schools.

The district pays $8,596 per student and $22,242 for each student in a special-education program.

The most recent tally shows the district may spend $700 million on charter school payments through June, about $25 million more than expected.

The charter school office developed the revised policy over the last 14 months as part of an initiative to improve the oversight of charter schools and bring more clarity and consistency to its monitoring.

The district held public meetings, met with charter-school leaders, and researched charter practices in other districts, including Denver and Washington.

In line with the SRC’s recent votes to suspend portions of the state school code because of the district’s financial crisis, the new policy underscores that the commission can act against schools that refuse to sign their charters because they object to enrollment caps.

In response to persistent complaints from parents that many charter schools limit their input, the draft policy would require new charter schools to have a school advisory council or other parent advisory group.

Kihn said most of the city’s charter-school operators have expressed support for the proposed changes.

Leaders from the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools and Philadelphia Charter Schools for Excellence could not be reached for comment Friday,

The district posted the 25-page proposal on its website Friday and is seeking public comment by March 7.

Kihn said staff would consider suggestions and expect to present a final version to the SRC for a vote March 20.

The revised charter proposal can be found at www.philasd.org/aqi.

Source: Philly.com – by Martha Woodall

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This entry was posted on February 24, 2014 by in Charter Schools, Pennsylvania, States.

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