The Philadelphia School Reform Commission said Wednesday that 11 charter schools would receive new, five-year operating charters once they met a series of conditions.
And, in what one charter operator called a welcome “midcourse correction,” the SRC voted to allow 17 other charters to expand in the fall.
“This makes a huge difference in the lives of a lot of children,” Marc Mannella, chief executive officer of KIPP Philadelphia Schools, told the commissioners.
Mannella and other charter officials contend that district staffers told them during a conference call Friday that the commission hadn’t planned to vote on their requests Wednesday and would not consider their applications to add 1,515 spots until this summer.
The commission’s next regularly scheduled meeting is in August, and angry charter school advocates had circulated e-mails, made phone calls, and mobilized supporters to turn out for Wednesday’s meeting to urge the SRC to consider their requests so they could be ready for fall.
But Superintendent Arlene Ackerman insisted that the commission had planned to vote on the charter renewals as planned Wednesday.
“It wasn’t a course correction,” she told Mannella. “The SRC never, ever directed the staff that this vote was not going to take place on June 16.”
After the SRC meeting, Benjamin W. Rayer, who oversees the district’s charter office, denied that he had told charter officials in a conference call Friday that the SRC planned to delay voting and took responsibility if there was a misunderstanding.
Charter officials said their own efforts had led to the vote.
“Through a lot of efforts, including through our coalition, we were able to impress upon the staff and the SRC something had to happen” Wednesday, said Guy Ciarrocchi, executive director of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools.
Saying they were trying to balance the charters’ needs with the district’s finances, the SRC authorized an increase of 1,042 charter seats for the 2010-11 academic year.
The vote was 4-1, with Johnny Irizarry voting no. He said he disagreed with how the district had selected some expansions to relieve overcrowding.
Michael J. Masch, chief business officer, said that the expansion would cost the district $7.3 million, but that the amount was included in the $2.3 billion budget the commission approved in May.
If the commission approved all 9,262 additional seats over the next five years that charters had requested, the five-year cost would be $266 million, he added.
The district’s charter budget totals $344 million for 67 charter schools that enroll 34,000 students.
The SRC said it would consider the charters’ other expansion requests later this year in conjunction with the district’s long-range facilities’ planning.
The 11 schools whose charters were renewed were told that they must meet academic and management conditions before their charters were granted.
Rayer said many of the schools had already met most of the conditions.
These schools were given new five-year charters.
Delaware Valley: Ninth to 12th grade. 5201 Old York Rd. Opened 2000.
Folk Arts-Cultural Treasures: Kindergarten to eighth grade. 1023 Callowhill St. Opened 2005.
Independence: Kindergarten to eighth grade. 1600 Lombard St. Opened 2001.
Mastery-Lenfest Campus: Ninth to 12th grade. 35 S. Fourth St. Opened 2001.
Mastery-Thomas*: Seventh to 12th grade. 927 Johnson St. Opened 2005.
Northwood Academy: Kindergarten to eighth grade. 4621 Castor Ave. & 4290 Penn St. Opened 2005.
People for People: Kindergarten to eighth grade. Grades K-8. 800 N. Broad St. Opened 2001.
Richard Allen Preparatory: Fifth to eighth grade. 2601 S. 58th St. Opened 2001.
Russell Byers: Prekindergarten to sixth grade. 1911 Arch St. Opened 2001.
Wakisha. Sixth to eighth grade. 900 W. Jefferson St. Opened 2001.
Walter Palmer Leadership Learning Partners. Kindergarten to 12th grade. 910 N. Sixth St. and 1415 N. Broad St. Opened 2000.
* Converted from district school.