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Application cycle for new charter schools now open, District says

By Wendy Harris on Sep 3, 2015 04:23 PM

The School District of Philadelphia announced today that the 2015-16 application cycle for new charter schools is now open.

The application cycle applies to new, "non-Renaissance" charters. Those interested in launching a charter school can fill out an application online through the District’s Charter Schools Office. Deadline to submit an application is at 5 p.m. on Nov. 15.   

During the 2014-15 school year, the District considered applications from new charters for the first time since 2007. In February, the School Reform Commission voted to approve five new charters out of 39 applications, all from existing nonprofits that already operated charter schools in Philadelphia: Independence, KIPP, Mastery, Freire, and MaST.  

The SRC voted to approve Independence West Charter School, to open in 2016; MaST, Roosevelt campus; Mastery Charter’s Gillespie campus, to open in 2016; TECH-Freire, a 9-12 school in North Philadelphia, to open in 2016; and KIPP DuBois, an already existing 9-12 school that will officially open as a school this fall. The SRC approved an additional application in May, a three-year KIPP charter, after the operator’s original proposal was denied and then resubmitted.

Superintendent William Hite recently reiterated his view that the charter sector in Philadelphia had reached a "saturation point." In his first two years in Philadelphia, the only new charter proposals considered were for turnarounds of District schools – the so-called Renaissance charters.

But the Pennsylvania law approved one year ago, which authorized a $2-a-pack cigarette tax to help close the District's budget gap, attached a condition: that the SRC reopen the charter application process annually.

The law also specified that the state Charter Appeals Board will be able to review denials. Under the law that created the SRC, its word had been final on charter rejections, unlike in the rest of the state.

For more information about the 2015-16 charter application cycle, contact the Charter Schools Office at 215-400-5270 or email

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Comments (27)

Submitted by Publius (not verified) on September 3, 2015 7:58 pm
Quick apply now, before Wolf gets his budget, Kenney is inaugurated, the funding formula is instituted, Clark disses the SRC, and the AUDITS begin! 20 years from now the charter-reform era will be studied by criminal justice students in chapters addressing conflict of interests.
Submitted by Nikkei (not verified) on September 4, 2015 4:40 pm

Hey dude, the stock market fell 300 pts. today.  On CNN money the guy says don't panic, it will bounce back.   On the other hand PSERS must be worried and they should be, just like CalSTRS and CalPERS.  There's nothing out there that's going to give them the Madoff 8% yields they need--not even Chicago Public School junk bonds or Puerto Rican Bonds.   Some Greek and Italian bonds pay 10% so that's something to consider.  

Submitted by Publius (not verified) on September 7, 2015 2:04 pm
Nikkei, on this Labor Day please note that your ill will towards the American worker is well noted. Your constant attacks on pensions and other economic rights that waves of workers garnered from employers and the government is only surpassed by your venomous correlation to the rigged stock market. You fail to mention that other private retirement plans, 401 Ks are tied to the same stock market you sadly announce as the boogeyman. The main difference of course is that 401 K ARE NOT difined benefits unlike pensions. Isn't that right Nikkei? Incidentally, pension haters also like to laud China as a pension free societal alternative... What a paradigm to aspire to a Communist dictatorship, that bans unions, does not have a social security system in place and best of all does not have a FDIC to protect savers. Long live FDR whom saved both the American worker and capitalism at the same time.
Submitted by Nikkei (not verified) on September 7, 2015 4:01 pm's a well known fact that FDR did not support public unions.  401k's are tied to the stock market (if the retiree chooses stocks as his investment option).  Unlike public pension plans, 401k's can't depend on taxpayers for a bailout if the plans don't generate Bernie Madoff 8% gains.    401K's also don't invest in derivatives, hedge funds, and private equity like db pensions which provide enormous fees for Wall Street Banks.  Lloyd Blankfein just became a billionaire thanks in part to our education dollars paying PSERS investment fees.  

Submitted by Nikkei (not verified) on September 4, 2015 3:59 am

It's obvious that more charters are on the way.  The money to support traditional public schools with their colossal pension bills simply isn't there.  In the LA TImes article "Pension Fund CalSTRS weights shift to safety" the CalSTRS managers are pondering last week's 12% market crash and the turmoil in the world financial markets and thinking about moving more of the fund's assets to bonds.  Bonds don't yield as much as stocks but they are supposed to be safer.  The problem is investing in lower yielding securities makes it less likely that CalSTRS will achieve its Madoff target of 8%.   Bonds don't yield as much as they used to either.  I can't believe that junk bond funds like the Fidelity High Yield fund (SPHIX) only have 4-5% returns.   Even Chicago Public School Bonds (only for suckers or riverboat gamblers) only yield 6% and CPS is the worst deadbeat debtor except for Greece.  

Submitted by Publius (not verified) on September 4, 2015 4:15 am
Hi Nikkei, you forgot other deadbeats; the state of PA for not making their pension obligations, and for not having an equitable funding formula, you also forgot the charters who do not pay into PSERS, add to the list GE, et al who pay close to no taxes thanks to tax laws that continue to enrich corporations. It's funny your focal obsession with poorer Chicagoans and Greeks, peoples who have been undet attack and receive gratuitous and bumber sticker rhetorical diatribes from anonymous actors rather public support. January 2015 is going to be interesting...
Submitted by Concerned Parent (not verified) on September 4, 2015 8:21 am

Most charter teachers / staff pay into PSERS.  Problem offurs when (1) charters do not pay their PSERS account - then the home school district is responsible and (2) corporate charters like Mastery that only offer PSERS to teachers who already are in the retirement system - they encourage their teachers to join a 403 account.   Mastery has a more "revolving" teacher door - "encouraging" them to join a 403 account helps push them out the door and into another profession.  Mastery, KIPP, etc. are tied to Teach for America / Teach for (a very short) While and climb the ladder.

Submitted by Publius (not verified) on September 4, 2015 9:48 am
Thank you for not drinking the cool aid. Imagine if we ran hospitals this way. We would have no healthcare professionals. America's enemies could not have conceived a more perfect implosion strategy than the corporatist' obsession with eroding workers' rights a la UBER, another way to "contract out" the social pact needed for stability.
Submitted by Nikkei (not verified) on September 4, 2015 4:31 pm

It would be great if schools were run like hospitals.  Hospitals usually don't pay pensions.  If the corporation that owns them does pay pensions to workers then it can't bill those pensions to taxpayers.  The corporation has to follow the rules of ERISA and assume a reasonable discount rate on the pension fund of 4-5%.  It has to fund those pensions.  A union can't tell the corporation to take a pension holiday and use the money for raises.  

Submitted by Lisa Haver on September 4, 2015 9:16 am

Wasn't this also one of the problems with Aspira?

Submitted by Another failed Philadelphian (not verified) on September 5, 2015 7:49 am

Mastery started the "no PSERS" policy.  They are expanding exponencially  - thanks to wealthy donors, the SRC/Hite, and "dump the losers" Gleason / PSP.  Mastery does not allow new employees into PSERS unless they already are in PSERS. This is a slap in the face to all teachers (and administrators) in Pennsylvania.  Another slam at educator professionalism.  Denying a teacher a right to the pension plan states that teaching is not a professional career.  It is a "pit stop" before a "bigger and better" career.  It fits with the TFA model of "drive by teaching."

Submitted by Nikkei (not verified) on September 5, 2015 5:37 pm

It would be a mistake for any charter school to participate in PSERS.  PSERS is insolvent.  It is 70% funded, relies on overly optimistic investment assumptions on its portfolio, and invests in a risky mix of stocks, bonds, hedge funds, and derivatives.  A school that participates in PSERS can and will see its payments to the bankrupt fund go up anytime to cover the funds' investment losses.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 7, 2015 1:33 pm

Aspira changed their policy this year.  Any new teacher to an Aspira school will not be part of PSERS.  Any teacher already employed by Aspira and changes jobs, they get a promotion, is considered a new employee and willnot be part of PSERS.

Submitted by Another failed Philadelphian (not verified) on September 7, 2015 1:39 pm

Thank Aspira is following the lead of Mastery and KIPP.  This move - to not allow employees to joint PSERS  - is a slap in the face of all teachers across the Commonwealth.  It is the utlimate is "anti-solidarity."  It also means the heads of Aspira - including Andrea Kirwin - and everyone at Aspira who claims to be "progressive," is NOT.  

Submitted by Concerned Phila. (not verified) on September 7, 2015 1:36 pm

Doesn't Apira Olney and Stetson have unions?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 7, 2015 3:19 pm

Stetson's vote to unionize was blocked, there were some unfair labor charges brought against Aspira and the NLRB stopped the vote.  Oleny voted for a union and one, however Aspira refuses to acknowledge the result.

Submitted by Nikkei (not verified) on September 4, 2015 4:00 pm

Can you give me a link to your statement that charter employees contribute to PSERS?   As far as I know charter employees usually don't get pensions, which is a major reason why charter schools cost less money.  In the NY TImes piece "At Success Academy, High Scores and Polarizing Tactics".  the article clearly states that Success teachers get 401k plans, and the supply cabinet is always full.  The students even get iPads if they want one.  

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 4, 2015 10:15 pm

PA Act 22 of 1997 states  (


All employes of a charter school shall be enrolled in the Public School Employee's Retirement System in the same manner as set forth in 24 Pa.C.S. § 8301(a) (relating to mandatory and optional membership) unless at the time of the application for the charter school the sponsoring district or the board of trustees of the charter school has a retirement program which covers the employes or the employe is currently enrolled in another retirement program. The Commonwealth shall make contributions on behalf of charter school employes, and the charter school shall be considered a school district and shall make payments by employers and payments on account of Social Security as established under 24 Pa.C.S. Pt. IV (relating to retirement for school employees). For purposes of payments by employers a charter school shall be considered a school district under 24 Pa.C.S. § 8329(a)(1) (relating to payments on account of social security deductions from appropriations). The market value/income aid ratio used in calculating payments as prescribed in this subsection shall be the market value/income aid ratio for the school district in which the charter school is located or, in the case of a regional charter school, shall be a composite market value/income aid ratio for the participating school districts as determined by the department. Except as otherwise provided, employes of a charter school shall make regular member contributions as required for active members under 24 Pa.C.S. Pt. IV. If the employes of the charter school participate in another retirement plan, then those employes shall have no concurrent claim on the benefits provided to public school employes under 24 Pa.C.S. Pt. IV. For purposes of this subsection, a charter school shall be deemed to be a "public school" as defined in 24 Pa.C.S. § 8102 (relating to definitions).

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 5, 2015 6:40 am


The four years, I was employed by a charter school I paid into PERS and the charter put in their contribution. However, last year all new teachers that were hired had to go into 403b retirement plan. 

Submitted by Nikkei (not verified) on September 4, 2015 4:52 pm

Poorer Chicagoans?  Okay, how about a rich city, San Jose in the middle of Silicon Valley. 20% of their budget goes to pensions.  They don't have the money to fill potholes and the city closed several fire stations.   Mayor Chuck Reed is attempting to get a pension reform bill on the 2016 ballot.  Someone asked legislator Willie Brown (who is black and a Dem) can the state file for bankruptcy?  He chuckled and said--no, Calif. probably won't file for bankruptcy but it will simply stop sending out the pension checks.  

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 5, 2015 4:11 am

Charter schools are allowed to opt out of PSERS. Harrisburg is trying to KILL PSERS by underfunding for 20 years and saying it is unsustainable. They want everyone to have a 401k so that they can limit their pension expense exposure to ZERO. Pennsylvanians have had the luxury of not paying enough taxes for the past 20 years. Ed Rendell who everyone seems to love created a pension collar to reign in the pension costs of the school district and the state. He also gave the city the DROP program. I can't believe anyone wants his opinion on anything.

Submitted by Another failed Philadelphian (not verified) on September 5, 2015 7:55 am

Rendell  and Ridge are responsible for the pension mess with PSERS.  Philly mayors, starting with Rizzo, are responsible for the City's pension mess.  Rendell added fuel to the fire with DROP.  Look who benefits from DROP.  

Submitted by Nikkei (not verified) on September 5, 2015 5:44 pm

Everybody should have a 401K.  Pensions disappeared from the private sector because of the ERISA law and because no company can deal with the stock market risk associated with db pensions.  DB pensions could be sustainable if pension funds assumed realistic investment returns, stopped the risky investments in hedge funds and derivatives, and if  benefits were capped and the retirement age for public workers increased.  But the unions oppose doing any of that.  

Submitted by Lisa Haver on September 5, 2015 5:49 pm

For some, apparently, progress in the richest nation in the world includes older Americans living with no guaranteed income and at the mercy of the likes of Goldman Sacks and AIG.   

Submitted by Nikkei (not verified) on September 7, 2015 5:05 pm

Pensions also involve risk.  Detroit and Stockton retirees saw 5% cuts in their pensions and the elimination of their COLAs and health benefits.  BTW your pension fund keeps Goldman in business by investing in hedge funds and derivatives.  Willie Brown was once asked "Can California file for bankruptcy?"  He laughed and said--the state probably won't file for bankruptcy.  It simply won't send out the pension checks.    Public pensions are unsustainable. 

Submitted by Adams (not verified) on October 21, 2015 3:32 am

Pennsylvanians have had the luxury of not paying enough taxes for the past 20 years. Ed Rendell who everyone seems to love created a pension collar to reign in the pension costs of the school district and the state. He also gave the city the DROP program. I can't believe anyone wants his opinion on anything.

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