March 27, 2016
|The Philadelphia School Reform Commission|
The assault on public schools in Philadelphia has entered a new phase. The roots of the current crisis go back to the 2001 state takeover of the Philadelphia School District, the dissolution of the local school board and the creation of the appointed five-member School Reform Commission. Over the next decade various attempts were made to privatize Philadelphia's public schools. When these plans did not achieve their goal, long-range five-year plans by Superintendents working with the Broad Foundation Superintendents Academy and the Boston Consulting Group were implemented. These plans included starving the public schools of resources while building up charters schools and using funding from various public and private sources for public relations campaigns designed to make charters appealing to parents. This led to the closing of twenty-four public schools in 2013 due to 'under enrollment'.
The current phase of corporate education reform, for a time, shifted the focus from school closings to ‘turnarounds’ of schools in low-income communities. (Note: Though the term 'turnaround' will be used throughout this article since that is how the SRC terms the changes, these changes are really the turnover of public schools to private interests.) This method of privatization was begun in Philadelphia under Paul Vallas (2002-2006), accelerated under Broad Superintendent Arlene Ackerman (2008-2011), and it has continued under current Broad Superintendent William Hite (2012 - Present).
For a detailed history of what has brought us to the present situation see:
The Seige of Philadelphia Public Schools
The Siege of Philadelpia Public Schools | Update
The Siege of Philadelphia Public Schools is Now a Full-Scale Assault
At the beginning of the current school year, three schools were targeted for turnaround. Parents and teachers have been given no choice in which charter company will take over their schools. Two years ago, when parents were given a choice, they voted overwhelmingly to remain public at two elementary schools. Steel Elementary rejected a takeover by Mastery Charter Schools; Munoz-Marin rejected takeover by ASPIRA. Both charter companies had engaged in heavy lobbying with the parents and with district officials. Having learned its lesson that starving the public schools, building up charters was not working with parents, the SRC is giving no choice to parents this year. Three schools are to be assigned to a charter company with the final vote in April:
• Huey Elementary to Global Leadership Academy, which has a record of low performance, a high percentage of uncertified and inexperience teachers, and several corruption scandals.
• Cooke to Great Oaks Foundation. Great Oaks is experimenting with replacing teachers with groups of uncertified, recent college graduates as low-paid tutors supervised by a teacher. The privatization is being fought by parents of the school.
• Wister Elementary to Mastery Charter, which has nine elementary schools, eight middle and high schools in Philadelphia and six schools in Camden, New Jersey. It is aggressively campaigning to expand its district in both cities.
The Battle for Wister