by Lynda Rubin
The Neubauer Family Foundation has joined the roster of foundations that support, both politically and financially, corporate disruptor-driven programs and initiatives in the School District of Philadelphia. A closer examination shows that the Foundation has been involved in an increasing number of projects behind the scenes in alliance with the Philadelphia School Partnership, whose growing influence APPS reported in the first installment in this series.
In recent years, The Foundation, with over $50 million in annual revenue and $395 million in assets, has placed itself at the nexus of the school privatization movement, concentrating its efforts in Philadelphia.
Neubauer’s Corporate Background
Serving as its CEO and Board chair, Joseph Neubauer led the growth of Aramark (founded as ARA services) in the eighties and nineties. In May 2012, Neubauer moved from CEO to Chairman of Board; he retired in 2014. Aramark’s website states that it provides food service, facilities cleaning and uniform services to hospitals, universities, school districts, stadiums and other businesses in many countries around the globe. Aramark’s website promotes its “…decades of hospitality experience”, claiming that “Aramark is uniquely qualified to provide an optimal merchandise selection, enhancing the guest experience with precious keepsakes from the 2015 World Meeting of Families to Philadelphia.” Aramark came under criticism for price-gouging lunch packages at the visit of Pope Francis, especially since people inside the area had no access to restaurants or food trucks.
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In 2015, APPS published research reports on the Philadelphia School Partnership in which we looked at board members, donors and political supporters.In the past five years, PSP’s influence has grown along with the organization’s programs. The School District of Philadelphia has accepted millions more in grants, along with the mandates and ideological directions that come with those funds.
White Suburbanites Make Funding Decisions about City’s Schools
When examining PSP’s outsized influence over District policies and practices, including targeted funding of certain schools, we begin with the handful of people making those decisions as PSP board members. PSP has insinuated itself into the District’s operations in a number of ways, including family communication and engagement, teacher recruitment, and training of educators and school administrators. PSP’s Board makes decisions about public schools in meetings that are closed to the public. Thus, the voices of public school families and the larger community are diminished. Until recently, PSP had eight board members, all of whom are white, six of whom live outside the city: Chair Michael G. O’Neill, Bill Marx, William McNabb III, Evie W. McNiff, Megan Maguire Nicoletti, Benjamin Persofsky, Kevin Shafer, and Janine Yass. In April 2020, PSP added two members: Colin Kelton, who is white and resides outside of the city, has worked in finance for 30 years at Vanguard. Sean Vereen, an African-American man who resides in the city, has some education background through Stepping Stone, Inc. Neither Vereen nor Kelton have any experience in classroom teaching. PSP’s Board now consists of ten members, nine white and one African-American; seven of whom reside outside of the city. In 2018, Mayor Kenney appointed Vereen to the Nominating Panel convened for the purpose of selecting Board of Education members.
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by Deborah Grill
November 9, 2015
The move to privatize public education has many players. Some attempt to move in giant steps. In Los Angeles, Eli Broad has raised $490 million in a bid to place half of Los Angeles public school students into charter schools. In New Orleans, city and state politicians took advantage of the chaos and destruction after Hurricane Katrina to fire public school teachers and convert all public schools into privately run charter schools. In Newark, Superintendent Cami Anderson, appointed by Governor Chris Christie, stripped the elected school board of most of its power and implemented “One Newark”. This plan instituted a lottery eliminating the right of parents to enroll their child in a neighborhood school, closed many public schools, and increased the number of charter schools. Recently, New Jersey politicians have targeted Camden as the next city to close all public schools and replace them with an all-charter district.
Other school choice players, including those in Philadelphia, choose to go about it more subtly. While individual politicians and organizations have been involved in the push to open charters, the inception of the Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP) in 2010 (originally the Philadelphia School Project) has provided the organization and money to speed up the privatization of the city’s public school system. The Partnership has been able to do this through its management of the Philadelphia Great Schools Compact, formulated and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. PSP’s influence has grown through its lobbying efforts and through the grants it has bestowed on schools of PSP’s board’s choosing through its own Great Schools Fund. PSP facilitates and staffs the Compact Committee meetings as well as serving as it fiscal agent. The meetings of both PSP’s Board and the Great Schools Compact Committee are closed to the public.
As the District begins another round of school closings and converting neighborhood schools to “Renaissance” Charters, a closer examination of PSP’s history and board members is needed to understand how this private organization has become so influential in just five years. This article is part of a series on the make-up and influence of The Philadelphia School Partnership.
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By Coleman Poses
August 26, 2015
Philadelphia School Partnership can trace its origin back to 2010, as a nonprofit organization with a mission to “create and expand great schools in Philadelphia.” To accomplish this mission, it had planned to collect and distribute 100 million dollars to successful Archdiocesan, charter, and district schools for their incubation, startup, expansion, and turnaround endeavors.
This mission coincided with the launching of the new District-Charter Collaboration Compacts, which would, according to the marketing, commit its signatories to usher in a new era of cooperation between school districts and charter schools across the country. In theory, there would be less competition for resources, and a universal enrollment would end the practice of schools luring students away from other schools. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation issued the grant to fund these compacts.
As of this writing, 21 districts have signed such agreements. Philadelphia’s agreement, called the Great Schools Compact (GSC), however, was unique in that it included Archdiocesan Catholic schools. The Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP) was charged with guiding the GSC as well as acting as its fiscal agent.
This article focuses on the activities that the PSP has undertaken.
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