Philadelphia School District faces uncertainty

Cuts and administrative changes lead some to question SRC practices

· April 24, 2012, 11:58 pm   ·  Updated April 25, 2012, 2:15 am

The Philadelphia School District might see some fundamental changes starting next year.

In a news conference yesterday, School Reform Commission Chair Pedro Ramos said there will be fundamental changes to the district. In a move to rein in spending, officials have been discussing plans to close 64 schools over the next five years and make radical administrative changes for the remaining schools.

Forty of the worst performing schools would close as early as next year, and six schools would close every year for the next four years. Additionally, the central office staff would be cut from 650 to 200 people.

Groups of 20 to 30 schools will be clumped together into “achievement networks.” Network leaders will be contracted based on the network’s achievement. Through such measures, the school hopes to close a $218 million budget gap for the coming year.

College junior Allyson Even, chair of the West Philadelphia Tutoring Project, said the plan would overcrowd schools and decrease the quality of education. “The new plan is just focused on saving money,” she said, whereas in the past, there was an effort to make positive changes in the education system. The plan is a move toward privatization that is “unprecedented nationally,” she added.

College junior Lee Marcus, director of Community School Student Partnerships, volunteers in two local schools and believes this plan would have strong repercussions in students’ lives. He said it brings a “fear of the unknown” for families living in low-performing districts. Moreover, it sends a bad message to students who may be relocated that their schools or communities are “inherently bad,” he said.

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