This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
The School Reform Commission will decide whether to approve applications for new charters again this winter. Fourteen proposals were submitted by the Nov. 15 deadline; that is a sharp drop from the 40 applications submitted to the SRC last year.
Ten of the 14 applications came from existing Philadelphia charter operators, including two from KIPP Philadelphia, which hopes to open schools in Strawberry Mansion and Parkside.
One of the first-time applicants is James Baldwin Charter High School, which would be located in Mantua and would emphasize lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender inclusion and anti-bullying principles.
Initial hearings on the applications will take place on Dec. 7 and 11, with additional hearings to follow. A final vote to grant or deny charters is planned for the SRC meeting on Feb. 18.
There is a 15th applicant for the SRC to consider. Liguori Academy, whose bid for a charter was rejected last winter, is resubmitting its application. The resubmission process does not involve any hearings, and the SRC must vote on that submission in January.
Last year was the first time since 2007 that new, start-up charter applications were invited, and the commission ultimately approved six of them earlier this year, all run by existing Philadelphia operators.
Since then, Superintendent William Hite has said that he believes charter schools in Philadelphia have reached a “saturation point.” In a September interview with the Notebook, Hite said, “I think we have enough in that sector. Now we have to talk about how do we improve the quality of the seats available in that sector.”
But meanwhile, the superintendent has recommended that three neighborhood elementary schools – Cooke, Huey, and Wister – be converted to charters as part of the District’s Renaissance Schools initiative.
The past 12 months have also seen four Philadelphia charters close their doors: Walter Palmer, Wakisha, Arise Academy, and Truebright Science Academy. The SRC has voted for nonrenewal of four others – Imani Education Circle, New Media Technology, Delaware Valley, and Universal Bluford – that are at various stages of the lengthy process for terminating a charter.