SRC set to vote on charter policy

Posted: November 08, 2007

The Philadelphia School Reform Commission moved a step closer yesterday to adopting a policy that will allow the district to monitor the city's 61 charter schools more closely.

A vote is scheduled for Wednesday.

Cathy Balsley, director of the district's charter school office, told the commission that the revisions would allow the district to visit charters more frequently and clarify the criteria used to grant and renew charters.

One of the most significant changes would give the commission the flexibility to consider charter applications every two years instead of annually. That would go against the state's 1997 charter school law, but the legislation that allowed the state to take over Philadelphia schools in December 2001 exempts the School Reform Commission from many of the charter law's provisions.

Balsley said the proposals were designed to make sure the district's policy on charter schools was "transparent, accessible to the public, merit-based and equitable."

Commission Chairwoman Sandra Dungee Glenn said she hoped the district and charter schools could work more closely to share information about successful programs and approaches.

Two weeks ago, the commission, still trying to rein in costs, delayed voting until May on 11 charter applications submitted a year ago. An additional 17 charter proposals for schools to open next September were submitted last month. The commission has not indicated when it will consider them.

Pro-charter groups have warned that many parents want to have more charter options for their children.

In other action, the commission took preliminary steps toward authorizing a $41.6 million sale of interest-free bonds to improve technology in 1,383 classrooms by providing electronic whiteboards and laptops.

Contact staff writer Martha Woodall at 215-854-2789 or martha.woodall@phillynews.com.

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