Bye bye, Philadelphia School District

I can’t comment on this yet. I don’t know enough of what’s going on, and I’m too disgusted:

Philadelphia public schools are on the operating table, reeling from a knockout blow of heavy state budget cuts. It was too much to bear after decades of underfunding and mismanagement at the hands of shortsighted Philadelphians and mean-spirited politicians in Harrisburg.

So the District is today announcing that it’s going to call it quits. Its organs will be harvested, in search of a relatively vital host.

“Philadelphia public schools is not the School District,” Chief Recovery Officer Thomas Knudsen told a handful of reporters at yesterday’s press conference laying out the five-year plan proposed to the School Reform Commission. “There’s a redefinition, and we’ll get to that later.”

He got to it: talk about “modernization,” “right-sizing,” “entrepreneurialism” and “competition.”

Forty schools would close next year, and six additional schools would be closed every year thereafter until 2017. Closing just eight schools this year prompted an uproar.

Anyhow, the remaining schools would get chopped up into “achievement networks” where public or private groups compete to manage about 25 schools, and the central office would be chopped down to a skeleton crew of about 200. District HQ has already eliminated about half of the 1,100-plus positions that existed in 2010.

This is all aimed at closing a $218 million deficit for the coming year, part of a $1.1 billion cumulative deficit by 2017. Charter schools will teach an estimated 40 percent of students by 2017.

And this rosy picture is premised upon City Council agreeing to fork over $91 million in additional property tax revenue. If not, things are even worse.


Details still are being worked out, but officials said the idea is to move decision-making away from a central office and closer to teachers and principals. It’s a concept used in other urban districts that will be tailored for Philadelphia.

“What we do know through lots of history and evidence and practice is that the current structure doesn’t work,” School Reform Commission chairman Pedro Ramos said. “It’s not fiscally sustainable, and it doesn’t produce high-quality schools.”

But teachers union president Jerry Jordan blasted the plan, calling it “cynical, right-wing and market-driven.”

“This restructuring plan has nothing to do with raising student achievement,” Jordan said in a statement. “The district provided a business model, not a research-based plan for turning around or supporting schools.”

They’re going to make the janitors union bid against low-wage contractors for their jobs. Talk about stupid. Yeah, by all means, let’s put some more families under the economic tidal wave!

4 thoughts on “Bye bye, Philadelphia School District

  1. One thing that seems to escape attention is that this isn’t like when, for example, a municipality privatizes garbage collection. Whatever else you can say about that, democracy still exists.

    If I don’t like the job the private trash collectors are doing, I can complain to my city council, work to vote out the rascals who selected that particular private company, even run for council myself. Maybe it’s mostly theoretical but there is some space for citizens to have a say.

    But when school districts are dismantled, an entire level of local government is disappeared. Because that’s what a school system is, a form of local government, with a specified jurisdiction (the school district) and an elected governing board (the school board). Like all forms of governments there are rules about making its records open for public inspection (the exception are individual student records, to protect their privacy) and making its meetings open to the public.

    What’s that called when the state is replaced by private corporations? The word is on the tip of my tongue, I think it starts with an F…

  2. Mayor of Cleveland is pushing privatization of the schools there too.

    The problem, as in Philadelphia, is that the state continually cuts funding. The mayor is essentially giving up the fight, asking the state to allow private schools to “compete” for funding. “Can’t be any worse than what we’re doing” is what he seems to be saying.

  3. Since there is a pile of taxpayer money just waiting to disappear into the hands of corrupt pols and their corporate allies, the media can’t help itself by cooperating with hyperbole about the failure of local urban public school systems.

    If what is happening to the Philly school district hasn’t happened near you, expect it soon. The vulture capitalists have been busy buying state and local politicians for years, and their hard work is now starting to pay off in a big way.

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