School district nixes charter schools' request to expand

Posted: April 26, 2013

NONE OF THE 21 charter schools seeking to expand next year should be allowed to do so, the school district announced yesterday, citing its $304 million budget gap.

Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. will not recommend that the School Reform Commission approve the requests for a total of 15,000 additional charter-school seats. Such a jump in charter enrollment would cost the district another $500 million over the next five years, the district said.

"Given our dire financial prospects, we must ask for shared sacrifices from our partners," Hite said in a statement released yesterday by the district. "It would be irresponsible for the district to endorse charter expansion while asking our principals to do the impossible with school budgets."

Hite has said that he has asked the city for an extra $60 million and the state for another $120 million to help cover the gap. The district also hopes to secure 10 percent across-the-board cuts from all employees.

If the district isn't able to get the revenue it seeks, Hite said last week that schools could see massive layoffs and the elimination of arts programs and sports. School budgets would be reduced by 22 to 25 percent.

In addition, per-student payments to charter schools for regular education will fall by about 12 percent between fiscal years 2014 and 2015.

Mark Gleason, executive director of the nonprofit Philadelphia School Partnership, which just granted the district $6 million to expand two district schools and one program Wednesday, said "nobody is happy about this." But he understood why the decision was made.

"They have a budget crisis. We understand they don't want to spend money they don't have," Gleason said. "It's important that the whole package of new revenues, personnel savings and increased flexibility that they're seeking get done."

On Twitter: @ReginaMedina


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