Home > Uncategorized > Philadelphia Schools to be Freed From State Oversight… Now What? Generocity Offers a Deeply Flawed Solution

Philadelphia Schools to be Freed From State Oversight… Now What? Generocity Offers a Deeply Flawed Solution

November 4, 2017

I was simultaneously heartened and deeply dismayed to read Julie Zeglen’s Generocity article encouraging philanthropists to invest in Philadelphia’s public schools despite the lack of clarity about how the school district would be governed.

I was heartened for two reasons. First, I was glad to see that the state effectively acknowledged that their takeover strategy was a failure. Their inability to bring about success through the elimination of presumably ineffective elected boards, through privatization efforts, and through bare bones funding should lead observers to conclude that each and every one of those concepts is flawed. Secondly, I was heartened to see someone in the philanthropy community advocating donations to the public schools and not to private enterprises designed to supplant public schools.

But I was deeply dismayed for two reasons. First, the urging of philanthropy is wrongheaded. As the article implicitly indicates, philanthropists can pick and choose where to donate their funds and this can often lead to disproportionate funding if the philanthropic funds are not coorddinated. An easy example of how this plays out is in the awarding of scholarships to graduating seniors in any high school in America. Invariably, if the awarding of scholarships is not coordinated in some fashion, all of the scholarship money will go to a handful of students– and this has the effect of diminishing the motivation of many students to view academics as a means to advancement.  But how could the funding of Philadelphia Schools be coordinated? The answer is that it could be done in a fair and even handed fashion by a democratically elected school board that receives an adequate and predictable revenue stream…. and that brings me to my second misgiving: Ms. Zenger makes no mention of the need for wholesale tax reform, including the elimination of tax incentives like those Amazon is seeking from some as-yet-identified city or metropolitan area. If every corporation in Philadelphia paid their fair share of taxes and every CEO who resides in the PA suburbs that ring Philadelphia paid a higher rate on their income taxes the elected school board in Philadelphia would have the adequate and predictable revenue stream it needs to improve the schools it oversees.

And this leads to to the bottom line on the “failing” Philadelphia schools: The legislature might throw int he towel on its efforts to govern the school district but it will NEVER concede that increasing revenues for Philadelphia through taxes is a necessity. After all, that would be “throwing money at the problem” and that never works… except in the affluent suburbs where the CEOs reside.

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