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70 Philadelphia Schools Go Private

April 18, 2002|From Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA — Seventy of the city's more than 200 public elementary and middle schools were handed over to private companies, nonprofits and parent groups Wednesday as part of a sweeping management reform plan.

The School Reform Commission, created by the state after it seized control of the city's public school system in December, voted 3 to 2 in favor of the plan.

The two dissenting votes came from the appointees of Mayor John Street, whose appointed school board was abolished in the state takeover.

"I am greatly concerned that the magnitude of the change being proposed is too ambitious at this point," said commissioner Michael Masch.

"We do not intend to be obstructionist here. We're going to work along with the SRC," Street said.

Commissioner Daniel Whelan, one of three appointees of Gov. Mark Schweiker, said the schools are in need of aggressive reform, immediately.

Most of the schools selected for takeover are in North and West Philadelphia, the city's two poorest neighborhoods.

The decision came over the objections of unions, students and some parents.

"We want off the [takeover] list, and if someone does come in, we want them to be people who know the community and who understand us, not some outsiders thinking about their profits," said Gladys Ortiz, mother of three elementary school students.

About two dozen students spent Tuesday night camped outside the city's school administration building, then formed a human chain and refused to allow anyone inside Wednesday morning. The commission responded by moving the meeting to another building several blocks away.

Under the plan, the commission will bring in seven groups to operate the schools, including three of the nation's largest private managers of public schools: Edison Schools, Chancellor Beacon Academies and Victory Schools.

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