By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia’s School Reform Commission has a monumental task before it: in the next month and a half, it must review 40 applications for new charter schools in the city.

The avalanche of applications came when the school district ended a seven-year moratorium on new charters, as a condition of receiving funding from a new, $2-a-pack Philadelphia cigarette surtax.

School district spokesman Fernando Gallard says the district has a team in place to review the applications so it can hold public hearings on them in 45 days.

“They’ll take a look at the entire picture in regards to how it would affect traditional public schools, charter schools, and the students and parents in the city of Philadelphia,” he explained.

Charter advocates applauded the high number of applications, but Helen Gym, of Parents United for Public Education, says charter schools have been a financial drain on the school district without much improvement in performance.

“It’s not like this is a surefire way to turn around public ed,” she said.  “There isn’t some magic bullet or some magic formula that’s going to be concocted to make this stuff happen.”

The school reform commission has three months to make a decision.