The Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools (PCAPS), a group that opposes school district reform plans as proposed, has come out against the School Reform Commission's move to suspend the state's timeline for closing schools.
The SRC, in a meeting Thursday night, used the "special powers" given it to suspend two sections of Pennsylvania's Public School Code. One move gives the SRC the ability to impose caps on charter school enrollment; the other gives it more flexibilty in the school-closing timeline.
Officials have said they will close about 40 schools at the end of the year; the list of recommended closings has not been made public, but could be by the first week in December. Chairman Pedro Ramos said in an interview that the SRC still means to have a robust and authentic public comment period before it votes on school closings, but said the state's strict guidelines needed to be relaxed, given the high number of closings and the district's timetable.
PCAPS isn't buying it. In a statement, the group said that the SRC's "decision to suspend the three-month school closing waiting period is simply the latest evidence of its indifference to students, parents, teachers and communities across the city. A process for closing schools already tarnished by its lack of transparency is now even murkier."
The group said the SRC should be slowing down, not speeding up, and accused it of "making vague promises about collecting public feedback after their decision has been made." It also called the process a "closed-door, secretive effort to shutter schools, cut more jobs and ignore the desires to students, parents, teachers and concerned citizens."
District officials and the SRC say that the district's finances are in such disarray that they can't afford to wait to close dozens of schools this year, and that they will not make their decision on any school's closing until after the public has had its say.