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Parents protest charter scheme

Philadelphia wants to convert two traditional elementary schools into charters. Some parents are upset.

PARENTS at two traditional public schools that could be converted to charters joined together yesterday to voice opposition to the process - including news that a decision on one school's fate has been postponed.

The School District of Philadelphia announced earlier this month that Edward T. Steel Elementary and Luis Munoz-Marin Elementary were chosen as part of the Renaissance Charter Initiative, the district's turnaround program that transfers low-performing schools to charter management organizations.

As a new wrinkle this year, parents will vote whether to remain a district-managed school or convert to a charter.

The district announced Monday that it had indefinitely postponed a scheduled Thursday vote for Munoz-Marin, which would be run by Aspira of Pennsylvania, because of requests for more time from parents. Meanwhile, the vote at Steel, which would be run by Mastery Charter Schools, will proceed as planned tomorrow.

Some parents claimed yesterday that the last-minute change proved how unorganized this year's process has been.

"They're saying that they got emails that parents wanted delays. I feel that's untrue," said Luisa Vidal, a Munoz-Marin parent and part of its School Advisory Council. "Show me those emails because we know that's not true. We got 700 students. You can't tell me you got 700 emails. If you got two or three, that doesn't give you the right to stop it for the ones that were ready."

District spokeswoman Raven Hill would not say how many Munoz-Marin parents contacted the district or if they had heard from Steel parents. She noted that Munoz-Marin's SAC was not fully established before the Renaissance announcement, though Steel's was.

The teachers union also criticized the change, saying it shows "the district's utter disdain for the voices of parents at Munoz-Marin."

Parents at both schools also complained that the Renaissance news was sprung on them while students were taking standardized tests, and favored charter groups by giving them more time to prepare a turnaround plan than the current school administrations.

"It takes time and planning for that and you give two weeks to do so," said Kendra Brooks, a Steel parent and president of the School Advisory Council.