NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Private Management Proposed for Philly Schools

November 2, 2001

Philadelphia could see the largest school privatization project in the United States, if reforms proposed by Gov. Mark Schweiker (R) are adopted.

The 210,000-student district faces a $1.5 billion deficit by 2006 and has scores of low performing schools. A study by Edison Schools, Inc., concluded that the Philadelphia School District spends far too much on maintenance and other non-academic functions, poorly deploys its teachers, and does not track the effectiveness of its many curricular programs.

  • "Over the past decade, the district's management has overseen the expenditure of more than $10 billion with no clear accountability for the results," says the report.
  • Edison recommends turning management of the district turn over to a private company under a six- to eight-year contract and turning operation of more than 60 of the lowest performing schools over to public-private partnerships.
  • "This option would create a highly motivated management team, whose performance could be directly linked to targets for student achievement and financial performance," the report said.

Comparing Philadelphia's SAT scores to Houston, Las Vegas and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Edison said these schools spend less but nevertheless outperform Philadelphia by 18 percent on average on the SAT.

  • One reason for low achievement is that the district allows schools to pick their own materials and reform plans, creating a hodgepodge of curricular programs "difficult to coordinate and fully support...."
  • Also, the district does not make optimal use of its teachers and has more of them per student than comparable urban districts.

On finances, the district could save $650 million to $700 million over the next five years. For instance, it spends 40 percent more per square foot for maintenance than other districts in the region, and can save 10 percent to 30 percent if it outsources custodial work.

Source: Susan Snyder, Ovetta Wiggins and Dale Mezzacappa, "Governor to suggest three tiers for schools," Philadelphia Inquirer, October 31, 2001.


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