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Under new policy, SRC allows 17 charters to add students

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

In June the School Reform Commission granted grade expansions to 17 charter schools for the 2010-11 school year totaling 1,042 new seats at a cost of $7.3 million.

A total of 22 charters requested 1,515 seats for this year and 9,262 seats over five years.

Criteria for expansion under the District’s amended charter school policy included academic performance and a school’s ability to relieve overcrowding in neighborhood schools.

Chief Financial Officer Michael Masch said that filling the full requests would have cost the District an additional $266 million over five years. Charter schools now cost the District $390 million a year to serve 37,000 students.

Only four schools had their full requests met. New Foundations Charter received 150 slots, Independence Charter added 38, Wissahickon Charter obtained 24, and Richard Allen Preparatory Charter added 25.

Nueva Esperanza Academy Charter received only half of the 50 seats it requested. KIPP Philadelphia Charter picked up 150 of 230 slots (it had wanted to add a 9th grade to its middle school program), but CEO Marc Manella is still optimistic.

“We’re thrilled that the SRC approved a portion of our expansion request. We’re looking forward to winter when the rest of the request will be voted on,” he said.

Walter D. Palmer Leadership Learning Partners Charter’s request to expand was not even considered. In 2009, the SRC gave the charter permission to operate grades 9-12 for the 2009-10 school year only, but denied its application for permanent expansion, capping enrollment at 675 students in K-8. The decision sparked a first-day-of-school protest.

The SRC also granted 11 charter renewals in June and in August approved the delayed renewal of Philadelphia Montessori Charter.

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