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What’s Happening in Philadelphia?

November 24, 2013

The Answer Sheet, Valerie Strauss’ excellent blog in the Washington Post is given over to Helen Gym, a parent leader in Philadelphia who has filed a FOIA request to get a report on a plan to close 60 schools in the city…. and 10 months later finds herself in court trying to get a resolution. Here’s the Board’s argument: they received this report from a consulting group who was paid by a private foundation funded by a group of philanthropists who wish to remain anonymous. And since the philanthropy group  issued the report it can remain out of the public’s view.

Sorry if I’m being naive about this… but where are the PHILADELPHIA newspapers? Why isn’t this headline news for them? Why aren’t THEY joining in on this? I worked as a superintendent of public schools for just under 30 years and know of no local newspaper who wouldn’t be all over a plan that called for the closure of schools or realignment of district boundaries? I lived and worked in Philadelphia in the 1970s when there were three newspapers and recall that they were very aggressive about keeping the public informed of the goings on in City Hall and the BOE offices on the Parkway. Where are they on this? Why do parents need to go to DC to get a full throated support for their efforts? This kind of leadership by the unelected school board in Philadelphia is yet another indication that privatization of public services is NOT in the public interest. Those who have seen the and perhaps commissioned the report, say real estate developers, arguably have insider advice that could be extraordinarily valuable to them. Those who will be most directly affected by the closures, say parents who reside in neighborhoods where school closures are contemplated, will be the last to know and given no input into the decision whatsoever if the court keeps these documents confidential.

Philadelphia’s charter schools already have a track record for mismanagement and over-compensation of “CEOs” and shareholders… Could it be that more profits are in the offing for charters who know where closures are contemplated? Or is my naiveté being replaced by cynicism?

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