If the Philadelphia School Reform Commission fails to vote soon on allowing charters to expand, some schools will have to put off their plans for a year, charter officials say.
The operators expected a decision today, but they learned Friday that the vote would be postponed until August.
Parents and charter-school advocates are expected to attend this afternoon's commission meeting to express their anger and to urge swift action on the expansion applications filed by 22 charter schools.
"We feel like we have done everything they have asked us to do," said Marc Mannella, chief executive officer of KIPP Philadelphia Schools, who has been talking to the district for two years about opening an elementary school and a high school. "We have earned the opportunity of a vote up or down. Weigh us on our merits."
If all 22 applications are approved, 1,515 more seats would be available in city charter schools the first year, and that number would grow to 9,262 over five years, officials said.
The district's 67 charter schools now enroll 34,000 students.
Benjamin W. Rayer, who oversees the charter office, told charter officials about the delay during a conference call Friday.
After last week's SRC meeting, Superintendent Arlene Ackerman confirmed that expansions were unlikely to be considered this month.
Tuesday, Rayer promised the charter operators that he would tell the SRC members that the charters needed action "as soon as possible. . . . Some of them do want to get moving for the next school year."
Mannella and other charter officials said they had played by the district's new rules to consider requests to increase enrollment. They met the district's April 5 deadline and submitted documents showing that their schools were successful and merited expansion.
Charter officials were shocked when Rayer said the vote would not come until at least August.
"I think there was universal disappointment," said Guy Ciarrochi, executive director of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Charter Schools, who participated in the call. "The only variation was the degree of anger and frustration."
Rayer said the vote was postponed because the SRC instead needs to vote today on 11 charter renewals. Staff and the SRC have proposed strict new conditions.
"It's in the hands of the SRC, and they've asked lots and lots of questions," Ackerman said last week.
The new scrutiny follows a widening federal criminal probe that includes at least 18 charters and a recent city controller's report criticizing district oversight.
KIPP Philadelphia, part of the national nonprofit Knowledge Is Power Program network of schools, operates two fifth- through eighth-grade charters in North and West Philadelphia.
Mannella said KIPP wants to add 100 kindergartners in West Philadelphia and 130 ninth graders in North Philadelphia.
Even charter schools that did not plan to add students until 2011 were dismayed by the delay.
Green Woods Charter School, an elementary school with an environmental focus in Roxborough, has been trying to expand for six years, Jean Wallace, the school's chief executive, said Tuesday. Her school wants to add 150 students in September 2011 and grow from 225 to 675 students over the next six or seven years.
"Everybody was trying to do the right thing and do it the right way," she said. "If we're delayed, people are not going to have the planning time that was right for the kids, and it's a shame.