The School Reform Commission voted to approve the application of a single new charter school on Thursday while denying six others.
MaST Community Charter School III, which is operated by MaST, was the lone application to be approved by the SRC. The proposal is for a K-12 school with 1,300 students, located at 1 Crown Way, which is expected to open for the 2019 school year.
The denied applications were:
Antonia Pantoja Preparatory Charter School, operated by ASPIRA: A proposed K-8 school for 925 students, located at 4322 N. 5th St., expected to open for the 2018-19 school year.
APM Community Charter School, operated by APM: A proposed K-8 school for 702 students, located at 405-7 E. Roosevelt Blvd., expected to open for the 2018-19 school year.
Eugenio Maria de Hostos Preparatory Charter School, operated by ASPIRA: A proposed K-8 school for 850 students, located at 6301 N. 2nd St., expected to open for the 2018-19 school year.
Franklin Towne Charter Middle School, operated by Franklin Towne Charter High School: A proposed school for students in sixth through eighth grade, located at 5301 Tacony St., expected to open for the 2019-20 school year.
Mastery Charter Elementary School, operated by Mastery Charter Schools: A proposed K-8 school for 756 students, located at 900 W. Jefferson St., expected to open for the 2019-20 school year.
Philadelphia Hebrew Public Charter School, operated by Hebrew Public: A proposed K-8 school for 702 students, located at 3300 Henry Ave., expected to open in the 2019-20 school year.
SRC Chairwoman Joyce Wilkerson said during the meeting the board’s goal was to “ensure a process that yields charter schools that have the capability to be successful with a focus on increasing academic success and improving learning for all students while meeting the legislative intent of the law.”
Although MaST Community Charter School III received approval, it came with a series of conditions, which included providing additional documentation about curriculum and transportation assistance for students in specific ZIP codes, among other things.
The applicants that were denied can resubmit their applications to the SRC or appeal the decision to the state.
The district’s Charter School Office compiled a comprehensive evaluation report for the applications based on the applicants’ testimony and submitted proposals. The reports provided a detailed analysis of the applicants’ expected budgets, finances, facilities, academic plans and the communities they seek to serve, among other things.
The schools’ evaluation reports can be found on the district’s website at: https://www.philasd.org/charterschools/newcharter/.
Before each vote, the SRC grilled DawnLynne Kacer, executive director of the district’s Charter School Office, about the minutes of each report, which brought to light inconsistencies, projected budget deficits and other outstanding issues in the proposals, among other things.
Donald Price, vice president of Education for APM, which failed to get approval to open its charter school by a 3-2 vote, said he was “disappointed in the results,” adding that the Charter School Office “totally misrepresented our testimony.”
“They lied through their teeth in order to achieve this result,” Price said.
Price added that APM expects to revise and resubmit its application or seek an appeal.
Jon Rosenberg, CEO of the nonprofit Hebrew Public, said he expects to resubmit the organization’s application to address what he characterized as “quite minor” objections by the SRC.
“From our perspective, it’s full steam ahead,” Rosenberg said. “We are cautiously optimistic that we will get approval in the spring and hopefully be able to open in the fall of 2019 as originally planned.”
The SRC based its approval on a variety of factors determined by state law, including each school’s support system, budget, and capacity to follow through with its proposal. However, the SRC cannot consider how the new charter schools would affect district finances.
Although seven schools sought approval, more were initially interested.
The Charter School Office originally received 13 letters of intent for charter schools during this cycle, Kacer said. Nine applications were received by the November deadline, and two applicants later withdrew their applications.
This year’s crop of applicants marked the fourth year since the SRC reopened the process following the 2014 state cigarette tax legislation, which mandated that the SRC end its moratorium on accepting new applications.
Since 2014 and not counting this current group of applicants, 12 charter schools have received approval out of 61 that applied, according to data supplied by the district.
There are currently 97 charter schools throughout the city, which educate approximately 65,000 students, compared with 242 district-run schools with about 132,000 students, according to the district’s website.
The applications were the last to be decided by five-member SRC.
After voting to abolish itself in November, the commission will remain intact until July 1, when a nine-member Board of Education is selected by Mayor Jim Kenney.