Troubled System Radical Response ; A Plan in Philadelphia Would Create the Country's Largest Experiment with Private Control of Public Schools

By Marjorie Coeyman writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, November 13, 2001 | Go to article overview

Troubled System Radical Response ; A Plan in Philadelphia Would Create the Country's Largest Experiment with Private Control of Public Schools


Marjorie Coeyman writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


The speaker is pumping up the crowd that's gathered in front of Philadelphia's City Hall. "They are a slew of vultures who see dollar signs and not our children!" she shouts, as her listeners roar with approval. "Who gave them the idea that they know how to educate us?" Fists punctuate the air, banners gyrate, drums pound, and the crowd roars again.

The protest late last week by several hundred students, parents, teachers, and union members was just the latest in a testy exchange over what could become the nation's largest experiment with privatizing public education. And for many of its opponents, the proposal is soured by a further blow: aggressive state marketing of the initiative.

The conflict has left observers on both sides uncertain whether Pennsylvania Gov. Mark Schweiker's proposal is a bold stroke or a naive blunder.

"Nobody's ever really contemplated having a private company at the helm of a major public school system," says Rick Hess, assistant professor of education and government at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. In terms of success or failure, he says, "This thing could cut either way."

Officials at New York-based Edison Schools Inc. - the private management company most likely to be brought in to manage the Philadelphia schools - say their track record should be reassuring. Of the 65 contracts Edison has entered into with public school districts, 62 are still intact. "I understand [the protestors'] concerns; I understand their commitment to Philadelphia, but we at Edison know, we absolutely know, we can create the kind of district everyone wants," says spokesman Adam Tucker.

Schools in dire need of reform

The one point on which all sides agree is that the 210,000- student school system - the eighth largest in the United States - is in serious trouble.

About 57 percent of Philadelphia students have inadequate math and reading skills, and 70 percent live at or below the poverty level. Dropout rates hover around 50 percent, 65,000 suspensions are handed out annually, and the city's high schools have a daily absentee rate of about 25 percent.

Past efforts at reform have done little to move the system beyond its entrenched problems. A reform-minded superintendent brought in during the 1990s failed to turn the tide, as did large sums of money poured into Philadelphia schools by the Annenberg Foundation.

In addition, the school system's deficit is now projected to balloon to $1.5 billion by 2006.

The state's response was to spend $2.7 million earlier this year to bring in the New York-based privately held Edison Schools Inc. to study the troubled system and make a proposal. Edison concluded that the primary obstacle to success was ineffective bureaucracy.

If Edison itself were allowed to manage the schools, the report went on to suggest, it would be able to improve education and save money at the same time.

Although Edison has yet to be officially named as the company to be hired, its proposal is the one the state is embracing. Unless a different agreement can be reached with the city by Nov. 30, says Governor Schweiker, Pennsylvania will take over Philadelphia's public schools.

Management of the schools would shift from the city's school board to a five-member School Reform Commission, with four appointed by the state and one by the city. The 55 top managers running the city schools would be replaced by the private company.

In addition, according to the governor's plan, the city's 264 schools would be divided into three groups. The top 30 or 40 - judged to be performing satisfactorily - would be left alone. The middle 170 would benefit from extra funding for textbooks, school maintenance, and professional development.

The worst-performing 60 would be turned over to the private company, in collaboration with various community groups - a situation that would, in effect, mean that the private company could be reporting to itself with respect to these schools. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Troubled System Radical Response ; A Plan in Philadelphia Would Create the Country's Largest Experiment with Private Control of Public Schools
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.