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Report Blasts Philadelphia Schools

November 03, 2001|From Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA — The math and reading skills of students in Philadelphia have sunk to "tragic levels," with 80% failing standardized tests, according to a governor's report that recommended privatizing the school district.

The city district's finances are just as troubling, with a cumulative budget deficit projected to reach $1.2 billion through 2006, said the report, based on the research of Edison Schools, a for-profit company that is the largest private operator of public schools.

Based on that research, conducted over three months, Gov. Mark Schweiker on Wednesday recommended a $150-million experiment in school privatization that would have universities, community groups and private companies run about 60 of the city's worst-performing schools.

"We can make this the greatest urban school district in America," Schweiker said Thursday in historic Carpenter's Hall.

Philadelphia Mayor John F. Street called Schweiker's privatization plan unacceptable and community activists vowed to defeat it, saying that corporate and political interests have no business in public education.

If Schweiker and Street cannot agree on an overhaul by Nov. 30, the state will take over the nation's seventh-largest school district.

The report painted the district as an inept bureaucracy with little accountability to students and parents. "The human consequences of that failure are heartbreaking--170,000 Pennsylvania boys and girls who have not achieved proficiency in the basic skills of learning," the report said.

The report said the city's lowest-performing schools get the least amount of money and teacher training is inadequate.

Schweiker's proposal would hand the administration of the school district to a private firm, presumably Edison. Edison also is expected to run 45 of the 60 worst-performing city schools, with the other 15 failing schools managed by private companies in consultation with community groups.

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