Philly charters grew by 10 percent in ’11

With budget cuts continuing to ravage traditional public schools, nearly one-fourth of Philadelphia public school students are enrolled in charters, according to a report released yesterday by the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools (NAPCS).

The report, titled “A Growing Movement: America’s Largest Charter School Communities,” shows that 23 percent of students enrolled in the School District of Philadelphia attend charters, the ninth-highest percentage in the United States.

Charters have continued to grow in Philadelphia over the last several years. In 2011-12, the city’s charter enrollment was up three percent from the previous year, with a total of 46,801 students — the fourth-highest in the country, down from third a year ago.

Last year, officials from the city, school district, Archdiocesan schools and charter community signed the Great Schools Compact, agreeing to add about 50,000 seats at high-performing schools — regardless of structure — and reduce the number low-performing schools by 2016.

But charter officials said there are 44,000 Pennsylvania students on waiting lists, with nearly two-thirds of them in Philadelphia. They want the district’s moratorium on new charters lifted.

“We just want to get more good, quality charter schools in place so that those students can have hope for the future,” said Robert Fayfich, executive director of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools.

Meanwhile advocates of traditional public education claim good teachers are the key to transforming schools, not charter operators.

With 110 school districts now having at least 10 percent of public school students enrolled in charters — the first time the number has surpassed 100 schools.

The explosion of charters has not been confined to urban cities, but also includes suburban communities such as Adams County, Colo., which has a total enrollment of about 11,000 students but is tied with Philadelphia at 23 percent of students enrolled in charters.

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