The Philadelphia Schools Partnership (PSP) yesterday announced that it has raised half of the $100 million goal for its Great Schools Fund. What readers might not glean from press reports is that PSP is an integral part of a broad and well-funded campaign to privatize public education in Philadelphia.
PSP received $15 million from the William Penn Foundation, as City Paper first reported, at the same time that the foundation appears to be cutting off groups like the Philadelphia Student Union that have been critical of privatization. And PSP's board is loaded with key wealthy figures in the privatization movement: Real estate developer Michael O’Neill, whose brother Brian O’Neill, according to a Daily News investigation, is close to a major Catholic Church-aligned pro-vouchers PAC; Janine Yass, wife of conservative Bala Cynwyd hedge-fund manager Jeffrey Yass, is among the state’s most high-profile voucher supporters who has together with his business partners spent millions to support pro-voucher candidates.
And PSP helped launch PennCAN, the state affiliate of the national reform group 50CAN. PennCAN embraces privatization more explicitly than PSP does, and supported an expansion of the state’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC), a voucher-like program that pays corporations back via tax credits for private-school-tuition donations. But the organizations work hand-in-glove: PennCAN executive director Jonathan Cetel works out of PSP’s Philadelphia office.
PSP has not invested in a single traditional public school, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan noted to the Inquirer.
It appears that the $2 billion William Penn Foundation will cut funding to the Philadelphia Student Union, which organizes young people throughout city public schools. And so PSU needs your support.
"For 17 years our foundation partners have helped pay the salaries of our hardworking staff and keep the computers on in our media lab," according to a PSU fundraising appeal. "As the City Paper has reported recently a foundation that has been one of our largest funders for over 10 years will probably not renew our funding this Fall. We've known this for some time and have planned and fundraised accordingly. We have a little over a year to replace this funder."
Last month, City Paper reported that William Penn is taking a new direction under president Jeremy Nowak: raising millions to fund a controversial and corporate-minded restructuring plan authored by the Boston Consulting Group; while cutting funds to community and youth organizers who are critical of privatization.
My previous education cover story, "Who's Killing Philly Public Schools?," related how PSU led the fight against privatization and the state takeover in 2001 and what that means for the District's current crisis.
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Schools PR effort includes GOP lobbyist funded by William Penn. Schools chair calls City Paper exposé a “fantasy.”
The Philadelphia Public School Notebook has discovered that the William Penn Foundation has spent more than $160,000 on a public-relations campaign for the School Reform Commission, which faces mounting criticism over a proposal developed by the Boston Consulting Group that would dismantle the central office, close more than 60 schools, and potentially put those that remain open under private management.
The Notebook reported that William Penn is paying the Bravo Group, controlled by Mitt Romney fundraiser and long-time state Republican leader Chris Bravacos. The money is being passed through the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.
News of the Chamber of Commerce payment confirms and expands upon City Paper's July 5 cover story on president Jeremy Nowak's leadership of William Penn, where we reported that SRC Chairman Pedro “Ramos had asked the Chamber of Commerce to bankroll a lobbying campaign.”
Paul Davies, former Inquirer deputy editorial page editor and current Philadelphia Magazine blogger, doesn't know what he's talking about. Or at least if he does, he's not letting on.
You see, Davies doesn't like my cover story on Jeremy Nowak's leadership of the William Penn Foundation. The story detailed a well-funded effort to bolster pro-charter-school organizations and defund education advocacy groups that have traditionally been critical of privatization. But instead of writing a thoughtful rebuttal with any sort of factual detail, Davies just lazily insults my reporting:
“City Paper,” Davies wrote, “wrote a breathless story last week that essentially inferred there was some secret right-wing conspiracy to overthrow public education and turn it into a bunch of privately run charter schools. Never mind, the story was lacking in details to support the thesis, and few critics would speak on the record."
Davies' column exemplifies a common establishment response to William Penn: A "breathless" gratitude to a moneyed foundation for bothering to care that Philadelphia exists — so infatuated as to lose sight of all critical consideration.
“Oh no they didn't” is Daniel Denvir's weekly blog post on last week's state politics. Philadelphians know precious little about the legislature or governor, but pretending that Tom Corbett doesn't exist will not make him go away. Follow on Twitter @DanielDenvir.
Republican Gov. Tom Corbett's administration has signed a $249,660 contract with a company run by Mitt Romney fundraiser, former state GOP party executive director, pharmaceutical lobbyist, and school voucher advocate Chris Bravacos to direct a media campaign promoting the state's Voter ID law.
Yes, that very same law, requiring that voters present identification at the polls, which critics contend will suppress Democratic-leaning non-white, poor, elderly and youth voters and which House Majority Leader Mike Turzai recently boasted (video) is “gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.”
Today's Inquirer includes two articles (here and here) on the William Penn Foundation, including the big news that William Penn announced a $15 million grant to the pro-charter Philadelphia School Partnership―a scoop that we reported yesterday and that William Penn had refused to confirm.
Indeed, William Penn president Jeremy Nowak gave his Inquirer interview yesterday―after our story broke―making it seem pretty darn obvious William Penn spoke with the Inquirer as part of an effort to push back against a City Paper story they are very unhappy with.
And while the Inquirer cited our article, they did not report or follow up on its three most important scoops:
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A coalition of parents groups and schools are calling for a "vote of no confidence" in the School Reform Commission's recently-unveiled plan to close at least 49 schools and expand its charter program by 40%.
In a press release issued by Parents United founder Helen Gym and Home and School Council president Dolores Soloman — and signed by more than fifty parent organizations and individual schools — the group calls for the SRC to rethink its plan, citing the following critiques (copied below, verbatim).
The "vote" will presumably take place during tonight's SRC meeting, which is exploding on Twitter (#phillyeducation, #occupySRC) as parents, teachers, advocates, and, yes, even Occupy Philly, pour in for a showdown.
1. The budget fails to uphold the District’s core mission to provide essential personnel and
quality instructional resources to public schools. Schools have borne the brunt of years of fiscal starvation and mismanagement. This year alone schools lost over $300 million in personnel and instructional supports. There has been no provision made to prioritize restoration of cuts. Another $121 million in instructional spending cuts was found in the budget but has never been explained.
2. The District failed to include parents in decision-making. Despite parents taking the time to participate in committees and testifying repeatedly at community budget meetings, the FY13 budget reflects very few of our priorities. In contrast, our Chief Recovery Officer has openly praised his relationship with the Boston Consulting Group, which earned $1.5 million for six weeks worth of work– as "intimate" and "hand in glove".
3. It promotes a secretive, massive school closings plan without a full public vetting of the
criteria for closing schools or a quality plan for transferring students or transforming schools.Many schools had deep concerns about the process which unfolded this past spring.
4. The FY13budget balances a $218 million deficit on the backs of children while leaving the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania off the hook to pay its fair share to schools. Districts all across the state are suffering. As a state takeover district, we need a plan that shows how the state and other entities will support our district.
5. Finally, the budget promotes non-public options at the expense of public ones. It does not demonstrate efficiencies around private contracts. It promotes a massive expansion of charters while targeting public schools for widespread closure and budget cuts. The choice to move from public to non-public options via 40% charter expansion or through private contracts with third party operators compromises the infrastructure of the District as a whole. It does not support education for all Philadelphia children – particularly those with special needs – and can be irreversible.
The group also lists its own proposals:
Set up an emergency process with school-based parent organizations and other parent groups to assess the impact of school-based losses this year and prioritize restoring funds to school-based budgets;
The SRC must hold public hearings on school closing criteria and slow down the process for closing schools in FY2013 to avoid mistakes like Creighton (seeking an educator-led turnaround process) and Sheppard and E.M. Stanton (both wrongly targeted for closure). They must design a process that gives parents time to seek quality options and not rush a decision in the spring.
An opportunity for parents to meet with budget staff to review and offer an alternative list of cuts, such as private contracts, consulting costs, and other options.
A process to engage parents, District leaders and the City in seeking alternative funding
sources including a collective effort for additional state revenue, Payment In Lieu of Taxes
(PILOTS), and other sources of revenue.
WHYY news director Chris Satullo dedicated his Monday morning address to Philly public schools and the dramatic “reorganization plan” put forth by the state-controlled School Reform Commission (SRC).
I'm not surprised that Satullo got this wrong. But it is striking in how many ways he managed to do so.
I'll make this brief:
The state-controlled School Reform Commission's plan to close 64 schools and privatize management of potentially all that remain open has sparked widespread opposition across Philadelphia. The plan would also outsource all blue collar work, and today members of SEIU 32BJ led thousands of protesters down Broad Street.
More than 2,000 workers―from bus drivers to maintenance workers―have received layoff notices.
Marchers chanted, “They say cut back, we say fight back,” and “Hey Corbett you can't hide, we can see your greedy side.”
Fourteen union members were arrested after blocking the streets in front of School District headquarters at 440 N. Broad, according to the Inquirer's Kristen Graham (she has photos too).
PA school privatization diverts taxpayer dollars to fundamentalists and lobbyists, according to Times investigation
A Pennsylvania program that gives tax credits to corporations in exchange for donations to private schools uses politically connected middlemen to send taxpayer dollars to religious fundamentalists, according to a New York Times investigation published today.
The Times also reported on tax-credit programs―which are effectively the same as school vouchers, turning over public money to pay for private school tuition―in Georgia, Florida and Arizona.
In Pennsylvania, 200 organizations control more than $40 million donated by corporations and take an “administrative fee” of up to 20 percent. Two of those organizations, Bridge Educational Foundation and Bravo Foundation, allegedly coordinate their “scholarship-giving" with elected officials in the state.
Bridge has served as the middleman for more than $650,000 donated by natural-gas drilling company XTO Energy (now owned by Exxon).
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