The two schools are less than four miles apart. But what separates Lower Merion High from Overbrook High is more than distance.
On a balmy night in early September, the parents of new freshmen are streaming through Lower Merion’s gleaming glass doors. They file down the halls into a soaring auditorium that smells like a new car. There, Principal Sean Hughes welcomes them to a brand new building and a world of high expectations.
Gov. Ed Rendell will leave office in a few months confident that he “dramatically moved the ball forward” to improve education in Pennsylvania.
He cites a new funding formula more closely based on student need, rising test scores, more early childhood education, expanded full-day kindergarten, tutoring for more than 100,000 students, and programs to improve schools’ use of technology.
Philadelphia has no shortage of critics, particularly in the Pennsylvania legislature, who are eager to argue that city schools don’t deserve additional funds. The last thing that District officials want to do is to give these critics ammunition. That makes the job of overseeing Philadelphia’s $3.2 billion schools budget a high-stakes task.
A fiasco like the “surprise” $73 million deficit of 2006 can undermine years of persuasion that putting additional funds into Philadelphia schools is a wise investment.