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.