During a recent School Reform Commission meeting, Commissioner Joseph Dworetzky decried the cost of independent charter school expansion under the Philadelphia School District's reform plan, saying district Renaissance Schools have been less costly. We at the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools disagree with the commissioner's math as well as his philosophy on education reform.

Dworetzky and others are overlooking the fact that the costs of any reforms have been exacerbated by the inability or refusal of previous commissioners to "rightsize" the district. This failure of governance has dragged the district into a fiscal hole. Ironically, as the current SRC strives to dig the district out of fiscal trouble and improve learning opportunities for children in all schools, critics continue to perpetuate the faulty thinking and math that brought about this condition.

Over the last six years, the Philadelphia School District's spending ballooned by $531 million, according to a report by the Commonwealth Foundation. Its professional staff grew by 5 percent, and its spending per pupil increased by 43 percent. All of this shows a failure to contain costs at a time when enrollment in the district declined by 11 percent.

During the same SRC meeting, Dworetzky also mentioned the Great Schools Compact, an agreement among the district, the city, the state, and charter schools — including the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools — to increase high-quality education in Philadelphia. Under the agreement, all options for increasing high-quality education must be given equal footing — including improving and supporting traditional public schools, expanding independent charter schools, expanding district Renaissance Schools and Promise Academies, and creating new independent charter schools. Otherwise, the charter school coalition could not have been part of the agreement.

We believe parents deserve to be able to make choices about their children's education. For this reason, the coalition will continue to advocate maximum options, strong accountability, and high quality in public education, regardless of whether the options are traditional public schools, Renaissance Schools, or independent charter schools. We urge the members of the SRC to do the same as they continue to make decisions on behalf of Philadelphia's families.