NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Privatizing Philadelphia School Management

November 8, 2001

After years of failed reform efforts, management of Philadelphia schools -- the sixth largest system in the nation -- is about to be privatized. Gov. Mark S. Schweiker (R) ordered the move over the objections of Mayor John F. Street.

Observers say the schools have for years suffered from a revolving door of top executives, on and off centralization and decentralization of administrative authority and lawsuits by activists demanding more funding. Some 57 percent of the city's 210,000 students fail state-mandated math and reading tests.

Schweiker noted recently that only 13 percent of the district's high school juniors are able to read the newspapers with basic comprehension -- and that doesn't include the 50 percent who drop out.

  • Under the plan, the school system's top 55 administrators will be fired and replaced with managers hired by a private firm -- most likely Edison Schools Inc.
  • Edison or other private firms would run Philadelphia's 60 worst schools in partnership with clergy, universities, business owners or even local politicians.
  • Principals in other schools would collect bonuses as large as 30 percent if they raise student test scores -- while as many as 1,500 teachers would be offered $7,500 raises to serve as mentors to less experienced colleagues.
  • Students would be given one million new textbooks and $51 million would be spent to spruce up the city's 264 schools.

To pay for the plan, the school system's headquarters building would be sold.

Experts say the plan -- approved under a state law -- is the most radical reform effort ever tried in a large public school system.

Source: Michael A. Fletcher, "Pennsylvania to Privatize Management of Philadelphia's School System," Washington Post, November 6, 2001.


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