Urban Education

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School Closing: About 180 Philadelphia students were left in the lurch last month when their charter school, one of the nine new charters opened in the city this fall, closed its doors, perhaps for good.

Officials at the Center for Economics and Law Charter School, a finance immersion school for 9th and 10th graders, voluntarily closed their school Oct. 28 after learning that its fire-alarm and sprinkler systems were not working, said Barbara Grant, a spokeswoman for the 214,000-student district.

The school's problems don't end with the fire-code violations, however. State education officials have cited the school for safety, discipline, and staffing problems, all of which have been brought to the attention of Philadelphia officials, according to Dan Langan, a spokesman for the state education department.

"After numerous visits to the school, our experts observed some things that just weren't right," Mr. Langan said.

Under Pennsylvania law, local, not state, school officials oversee charter schools. Philadelphia officials, who are in the process of evaluating the school, will decide whether or not to reopen the school this year by the end of this month.

In the meantime, students have been told to resume classes at the schools they are zoned to attend, Ms. Grant said.

Controversial Survey: Parents, students, and teachers in the Dallas public schools were asked this month to complete a detailed opinion survey on their school district that critics say may be part of a veiled attempt to set up a voucher system there.

The 20-page surveys, whose $750,000-plus price tag was picked up by former presidential candidate Ross Perot's Perot Foundation and designed by New York management consultant David Sirota, were initially scheduled to go out last spring, district spokesman Jon Dahlander said.

But critics, including the 25,000-member Dallas Council of Parent-Teacher Associations, got a postponement of their distribution, arguing that the survey results could be used by those advocating setting up a private-school-voucher system in the 160,000-student district. The PTA council mailed out letters to parents before the surveys' distribution urging them not to fill them out.

But Roxan Staf, a member of the district's nine-member school board, said both the board and Mr. Perot had been clear in their opposition to vouchers.

"This has become somewhat of a red herring," she said. "This survey is set up to help schools get better and help us better understand where teachers, parents, and students are coming from."

--KERRY A. WHITE [email protected]

Vol. 18, Issue 12, Page 8

Published in Print: November 18, 1998, as Urban Education

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