The School Reform Commission (SRC) announced plans to radically transform the city’s public education system, dismantling the School District, cutting/consolidating/closing everything within reach through dire austerity measures over the next five years, and decentralizing controls over public education. It’s not possible to overstate how dramatic these plans are, and how high the stakes.
I’ll be collecting stories about the seismic shift that’s proposed and posting them here. If you’ve found one that’s especially useful, share it here along with your comments and I’ll keep adding to the list.
The Public School Notebook is all over this news:
- The School District issued a stunning plan to close 64 schools over the next 5 years and dissolve the remaining schools into “Achievement Networks.”
- In order to close the district’s $218 million gap, the five-year austerity budget leaves no section untouched. See the budget-in-brief [pdf] or the entire budget [pdf].
- Is the transformation plan a travesty or an opportunity? Is the plan a political move to privatize education or will it afford principals greater freedom to develop strategies and partnerships tailored to enrich individual schools.
- Helen Gym, founder of Parents United for Public Education and former Notebook editor, offers a passionate commentary: “You’re not speaking to me, Mr. Knudsen.” She takes Chief Recovery Officer Thomas Knudsen to task, referring to the SRC’s plan as “disaster capitalism,” and she questions the motives, jargon, and assumptions behind the approach. Read the comments.
Kristen A. Graham, the Inquirer’s excellent education reporter is also eyeball-deep in coverage:
- Find Graham’s comprehensive explainer on the financial and structural obsolescence of the District and the nuts and bolts of the SRC plan to decentralize control, slash the budget, close schools, and immediate reactions to the whole thing. SRC Chairman Pedro Ramos said, “The School District has reached a point where it will either achieve fiscal sustainability and succeed at providing safe, high-quality schools or it will become a mere social program.”
- In brief, Graham looks at how the School District will self-destruct and build a new system from the remaining parts, as well as the financial conditions that led us here.
- In the Daily News, Graham writes that in the SRC’s eyes it matters less if a school is charter or district-run. What does matter is if a school is high- or low-performing. She also reveals some interesting numbers: 25% of Philly students attend charters, and that could jump to 40% by 2017.
- NewsWorks posted this video excerpt of Mayor Nutter’s press conference about the SRC’s plan.
- City Paper’s, Daniel Denvir’s exploration of the dissolution plan referred to the plan as organ harvesting, how Philly’s new M.O. is to do things cheaper if not better, and revealed that the SRC thinks public schools will need to attract private donors. “This is triage, and triage is ugly.”
- Mayor Nutter renewed his calls for City Council to act on changing the city’s property tax system, a move that would garner the school district an estimated $90 million in the first year. But as the Daily News reported Wednesday, the issues of increased property taxes through the Actual Value Initiative and the School District’s deep budget deficit shouldn’t be linked. Councilman Bill Green said, “While I certainly share the mayor’s enthusiasm for better schools, AVI has nothing do with schools revenue.” Meanwhile the Mayor sees it at as a double-bottom line: “We need to fix the property-assessment system and we need to support high-quality public education.”