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Changes May Be Coming to Charters in New York City, Philadelphia

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The new year may bring changes to charter schools in some large, urban districts. New legislation in Philadelphia and new leadership in New York may alter the landscape for charter schools in those districts. Also, charter skeptics in Chicago are criticizing the approval of a new charter school by the state charter school commission after the charter school's application was originally turned down by Chicago Public Schools. Read on for more details about these three developing stories.

• Pennsylvania state Senator Anthony Hardy Williams, a supporter of charter schools, and Lawrence Feinberg, founder of Keystone State Education Coalition, who is a charter school critic, debate the merits and drawbacks to that state's Senate Bill 1085, which would change the way charters are funded and run in the state, in this interview on Philadelphia's NPR station WHYY. Listen in to find out what both sides are saying about this controversial piece of legislation that almost everyone agrees is overdue even if there is much disagreement about what exactly should be done. 

• With New York City's mayor-elect Bill de Blasio getting ready to take office, charter school advocates there are fearful of new policies that will likely not be as friendly towards the schools as those set by Michael Bloomberg, who was famously supportive of the schools. Many charter advocates are worried that de Blasio will phase out colocation, which allows charter schools to operate in the same building as other regular or charter schools free of charge. That move would be devastating to the schools in such a competitive and expensive real-estate market, charter advocates say.

As the Associated Press reports, de Blasio pledged to end the practice of giving charter schools facilities free of charge during his campaign, saying that he would like to establish a sliding scale for the schools, with the more well-endowed charter networks paying more while others could remain in their buildings rent-free. However, until an education chancellor is chosen, it's unclear exactly how much each charter school may have to pay.

• And in Chicago, Concept Schools Inc. is coming under fire after being approved to open two charter schools in Chicago by the Illinois State Charter School Commission, reports the Chicago Sun-Times. The group's proposal was previously rejected by Chicago Public Schools because the school it already operates in Chicago did not outperform other schools in the neighborhood by at least 10 percent on state tests. The district requires this level of performance before charter operators are permitted to expand. Being authorized by the state authority will also allow the schools to receive 33 percent more per-pupil funding than other charter schools in Chicago that are authorized by the district, says the article.

The state agency was created by lawmakers including Rep. Michael Madigan, who has tight ties with the charter network, reports the Sun-Times.

Follow @EWKatieAsh to keep up with the latest school choice and charter school news on Twitter. 

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