School & District Management

Finances at Issue in Delay Of Phila. Schools Takeover

By Catherine Gewertz — December 12, 2001 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Pennsylvania’s governor and Philadelphia’s mayor have delayed until Dec. 21 the impending state takeover of the city’s schools in an attempt to make more cordial and cooperative a shift of power that many Philadelphians already view as an unfriendly intrusion.

The announcement by Republican Gov. Mark S. Schweiker and Democratic Mayor John F. Street postponed by three weeks the surrender of Philadelphia’s troubled schools to the state. It came after a week of intense negotiations, first between the mayor’s and governor’s top deputies, and then, on the deadline day of Nov. 30, one-on-one between the leaders themselves.

With only hours left before the anticipated Dec. 1 takeover, the two men emerged and announced the extension.

“This is a monumental decision in the history of this city,” Mayor Street said. “We believe we should make every effort to resolve the ambiguity and the differences we have. We’re only going to do this once.”

Gov. Schweiker noted that there was “common ground,” but said that the two sides needed to sort out financial disagreements.

‘High-Stakes Decisions’

The delay surprised many observers, since both sides had characterized the deadline as firm. But the sticking points appeared to be significant enough to require more time for exploration.

“I don’t know if it will make the result better, but it creates the potential for a better result,” said Pedro A. Ramos, the president of the Philadelphia school board and a participant in the negotiations. “These are very high-stakes decisions, and they should be based on the best facts available.”

Both sides acknowledged that the key stumbling point was money—how much is needed to finance the district, how much the state and the city each can contribute, how much savings the district can realize through cost cutting. The school system faces a $200 million deficit this year alone in its $1.7 billion budget.

“We had questions about how they arrived at their financial numbers, and they had questions about ours,” said Steve Aaron, the governor’s spokesman. “The [governor and the mayor] felt that if we could take 21 days and use that time to do a closer analysis, it would be time well spent if it could lead to a conclusion that had the city and state partnering.”

Gov. Schweiker has proposed that the state contribute an additional $75 million a year to the city schools, but has suggested that state legislators would balk unless Philadelphia matched that sum. City officials, however, fear that raising that amount might come at the expense of other city services.

In the weeks leading up to the Nov. 30 deadline, various groups of parents, labor-union members, clergy, teachers, and students staged demonstrations in opposition to the part of the state’s plan that has drawn national notice: its intent to allow private school-management firms to run 60 of the district’s worst-performing schools. (“Phila. Takeover Deadline Marked by Protests,” Dec. 5, 2001.)

That would turn the 210,000-student district into the biggest laboratory yet for school privatization.

Mr. Schweiker’s plan calls for those schools to be run in partnership with community organizations. Edison Schools Inc., the country’s largest private operator of public schools, would likely play a powerful consulting role for the new commission that is to replace the mayorally appointed school board. The New York City-based company also could manage clusters of schools if chosen to do so.

The issue of how to pay for the city’s schools has been a sore one for many years as Philadelphia, with a heavy share of poor students, struggled to find enough money to run its schools as its costs rose. Many Philadelphians are looking to the Pennsylvania legislature for what they say is the only lasting answer: a statewide tax overhaul that would give the state a greater share of school finance and substitute a higher personal-income tax for local districts’ dependence on property taxes.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the December 12, 2001 edition of Education Week as Finances at Issue in Delay Of Phila. Schools Takeover

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Data Webinar
Education Insights with Actionable Data to Create More Personalized Engagement
The world has changed during this time of pandemic learning, and there is a new challenge faced in education regarding how we effectively utilize the data now available to educators and leaders. In this session
Content provided by Microsoft
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Accelerate Learning with Project-Based Learning
Earlier this year, the George Lucas Educational Foundation released four new studies highlighting how project-based learning (PBL) helps accelerate student learning—across age groups, multiple disciplines, and different socio-economic statuses. With this year’s emphasis on unfinished
Content provided by SmartLab Learning
School & District Management Live Online Discussion Principal Overload: How to Manage Anxiety, Stress, and Tough Decisions
According to recent surveys, more than 40 percent of principals are considering leaving their jobs. With the pandemic, running a school building has become even more complicated, and principals' workloads continue to grow. If we

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management The Already Dire Substitute Shortage Could Get 'Worse Before It Gets Better'
School districts are trying all sorts of tactics, including increasing pay and relaxing requirements, to get more subs in classrooms.
10 min read
Image of an empty classroom.
urfinguss/iStock/Getty
School & District Management Opinion National School Boards Association Chooses to Be Part of the Problem
The NSBA chose to blur the distinction between permissible and suspect speech in suggesting the FBI should target unruly protesters.
5 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
School & District Management Facing Disruption and Firings, L.A. Extends COVID Vaccine Deadline for School Staff
The extension comes as the nation's second-largest school system has struggled to fill more than 2,000 teaching and other vacancies.
Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times
5 min read
In this March 2, 2021, file photo, a sign is displayed at a COVID-19 vaccination site for employees of the Los Angeles School District, LAUSD, in the parking lot of SOFI Stadium in Inglewood, Calif. Public schools have struggled for years with teacher shortages, particularly in math, science, special education and languages. But the pandemic has exacerbated the problem. The stresses of teaching in the COVID-era caused a spike in teacher retirements and resignations. On top of that, schools now have to hire all kinds of additional staff, like tutors and special aides to help kids make up for learning losses, and more teachers to run online school for those not ready to return.
In this March 2, 2021, file photo, a sign is displayed at a COVID-19 vaccination site for employees of the Los Angeles School District, LAUSD, in the parking lot of SOFI Stadium in Inglewood, Calif.
Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Photo
School & District Management Opinion Graduation Must Depend on Learning, Not Time
We’re long overdue to redesign our education system around competency, argue six superintendents. Here’s what that could look like.
Morcease Beasley, Alberto Carvalho, William Hite, Jesus Jara, Monica Goldson & Jerry Almendarez
5 min read
A conceptual illustration of a mountain of paperwork before the goal is reached.
Vanessa Solis/Education Week and iStock