By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Now that the Philadelphia School District has accepted applications for new charter schools, charter operators are revving up the pressure to get new schools approved. Some are already recruiting families for schools that may never exist.

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Parents in the Port Richmond section of the city were invited to a meeting about a new charter school in their neighborhood. Except there is no new charter in the neighborhood. American Paradigm has applied to open one, but a decision is three months away. Company CEO Jurate Krokys says the meeting was inspired by the district’s charter application, which asks about community engagement.

“You have to reach out to people,” he says. “You have to embrace everything that is going on in the neighborhood.”

Krokys says the company was clear that they didn’t know if they’d get a charter.

The district was required to accept new charter applications as a condition of receiving badly needed funding from a cigarette tax, but there is no requirement that they approve any.

The district received 40 applications, which they must review in the next 45 days. Then there will be hearings and the School Reform Commission must announce a decision in February 2015.

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School district spokesman Fernando Gallard says operators who are already touting prospective schools are “getting ahead of the process and taking a risk.”

“And I presume what they’re trying to do is build a group of parents that will call and make their interest known,” he says.

Parents in West Philadelphia don’t have to do much to show support for Independence Charter’s application for a new school there — just fill in the blanks of a form letter that’s been circulating and send it to the district’s charter office.

Public school advocates hope more than lobbying goes into the School Reform Commission’s decision.

“It’s going to be really critical that the district makes decisions based on education and financial interests,” says Susan Gobreski of Education Voters, “not just responding to pressure.”

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