Deletion of Policy 141 Cedes Power to Harrisburg
by Lisa Haver
In 2010, the state-controlled School Reform Commission approved the Renaissance Policy portion of Superintendent Arlene Ackerman’s “Imagine 2014”. Policy 141 escalated the privatization of public schools and the diversion of taxpayer funds to privately-managed schools. The companies awarded contracts to manage those schools promised to “effect dramatic change” at “chronically underperforming schools”. The District, over the past ten years, has spent hundreds of millions on Renaissance schools while getting very little in return. Although the Initiative stipulated that “Renaissance Schools will be granted greater autonomy in exchange for increased accountability”, there has actually been less accountability, as seen by the repeated renewals of Renaissance charters that fail to meet basic standards, let alone surpass District performance.
Much of the funding for this method of charter expansion came from a major grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Great Schools Compact Grant, accepted by the SRC in 2011 without public deliberation. The Philadelphia School Partnership advanced its privatization agenda while acting as manager and fiscal agent of the Great Schools Compact Committee, whose meetings were not open to the public.