At the end of April 2012, the School District released a reform plan - a "blueprint" to radically transform public education in the city by closing dozens of schools, expanding charters, and reorganizing the School District into decentralized "achievement networks" run primarily by private entities.
Keep up with the latest developments on the plan and community reaction here.
Jeremy Nowak, the president of the William Penn Foundation, has been a key player in the District's plan for dealing with its budget crisis and reorganizing its operations. The William Penn Foundation paid for the Boston Consulting Group's initial $1.4 million contract and Nowak raised additional money to keep BCG on past its five-week commitment. The Notebook asked Nowak to answer a series of questions about the plan, especially in light of the controversy it has generated. (Disclosure: The William Penn Foundation is a major funder of the Notebook.)
Notebook: Why has the William Penn Foundation decided to do this – to give money so District leadership could hire a consultant to advise it on reorganization?
After months of maneuvering, the School Reform Commission is scheduled to vote Thursday on a $2.55 billion operating budget for the 2012-13 school year, including a projected $218 million gap that will likely be plugged through deficit borrowing.
But first, parents, advocates, and labor unions – angry at deep cuts to schools this year and fearful of a new “transformation blueprint” that would radically overhaul public education in the city – are planning to turn out in force to protest.
In one community hearing and meeting after another, the School Reform Commission has been told in no uncertain terms that its privatization plan and austerity budget are not acceptable to parents, students, educators, and community members.
In response, the SRC decided to defer a vote on its plan to farm out school management, the so-called "achievement networks," till next year. By law, the SRC must adopt a budget by May 31, and there is little question about what it will look like. Without the authority to raise revenue, the SRC is compelled to either cut or borrow more money.
It’s hard to imagine a worse debut in Philadelphia for the Boston Consulting Group.
Writing in today’s Inquirer, Mark Gleason, executive director of the Philadelphia School Partnership, attempts to explain why there have been few voices coming forward at hearings and community meetings to support the transformation plan. In his piece headlined "A silent majority for Philadelphia school choice," he writes that “a handful of activists with specific agendas” have hijacked the discussion. Meanwhile, “a whole lot of people” are “too busy” enjoying the fruits of school choice “to stage rallies, attend meetings or get on the phone with a reporter.”
This description echoes Richard Nixon explaining away massive public opposition to the Vietnam War by citing a “silent majority” that supported his policies. The nice thing about this argument is that because these supporters are silent, no one really knows what they think and thus anyone can freely attribute opinions to them.