More public schools to be given to charters

William R. Hite Jr. says his Phila. school plan is workable and revenue-neutral. (Tom Gralish / Staff Photographer)

More Philadelphia public schools will be given to charter organizations in September, the district's fourth go-round in its "Renaissance Schools" process. 

The district on Friday released a request for proposals for 2013-14 charter operators, no big surprise since officials have been saying for months that while they won't be authorizing any new standalone charters for next year, they like the Renaissance charter model and will continue to use it as a way to improve failing schools.

Officials said they would release the details of this year's crop of Renaissance schools on Feb. 11.  A spokeswoman declined to say how many schools will be given to charters this year.

Since 2010, 17 struggling district schools have been handed to charters to run. The district has been pleased with the schools' progress, officials say, citing improvements in academics, attendance, violence and percentage of neighborhood students enrolling.

Schools are deemed "Renaissance eligible" on the basis of academics, school climate and neighborhood attendance rate.  Only firms with a track record of turning around low-performing schools will be considered, officials said.  Winning bidders will be awarded a five-year charter to run the schools.

Teachers in the affected schools will be considered force transfers who are eligible for jobs in other district schools.

Raven Hill, the spokeswoman, said that she could not speak to whether Promise Academies - district-run Renaissance Schools - will be designated.

The Renaissance timeline is tight - charter operators have until Feb. 8 to submit a letter of intent to submit RFP responses, which are due March 5.  Meanwhile, community meetings for the designated schools will be held in February, and the School Advisory Councils that will make recommendations about which charter operators to pick will be recruited by early March.  Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. will make his recommendations about charter-school matches by April 19, with a School Reform Commission vote on the matches to be held by early May.

Copies of the Renaissance RFP are available on the district's website.

The district's use of Renaissance schools has led to continued enrollment drops in the city's traditional public schools.  This year, there are about 146,000 students in the system.