By Mike DeNardo

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A city cigarette tax to help fund Philadelphia schools passed the Pennsylvania House last night (see related story), with the help of an amendment that will send the measure back to the state senate.

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That amendment would give groups who want to open charter schools in Philadelphia the right to appeal to a state board if they get turned down by the School Reform Commission.  Right now, the SRC gets the final word.

Helen Gym, cofounder of Parents United for Public Education, says she appreciates the effort to get the cigarette tax though the state House, but she’s concerned about what it took.

“This language about charter schools being able to appeal directly to the state has never been vetted or viewed by the public,” Gym says.  “I don’t think anybody has really read any of the language or thought about the consequences or concerns about it.”

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Among those concerns is the cash-strapped school district’s ability to control the growth of charter schools.

The cigarette tax is expected to provide about $45 million for the district this year.  That’s about half of the $93 million that schools superintendent William Hite says he needs just to get back to last year’s “inadequate” level of services.


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