The Daily Pennsylvanian is a student-run nonprofit.

Please support us by disabling your ad blocker on our site.

Only days after Gov. Mark Schweiker and Mayor John Street finally reached a partial agreement on how to revive the city's ailing public school system, labor unions and community activists will ask the state Supreme Court to declare unconstitutional a law that allows state takeovers of public schools.

With the school system hundreds of millions of dollars in debt, a teacher shortage and more than half of students failing in key subjects, Schweiker and Street have been trying to reach a solution on how best to aid the schools.

The mayor, who is vehemently opposed to school privatization, and the governor agreed last Tuesday not to privatize the entire district, but some schools may still be taken over by a private company, likely Edison Schools Inc., a for-profit firm that was hired to analyze the Philadelphia situation.

The activists plan to file a lawsuit this week, most likely today.

Schweiker originally wanted to allow the city's schools to be completely taken over by Edison, but Street adamantly refused to accept those terms. Last week, both men agreed to allow Edison to consult with school system officials on how to improve the schools, but total privatization was ruled out.

The two are still discussing whether or not Edison should be allowed to take over the 60 worst schools in the district. Schweiker and Street spokesmen have said that the two will reach an agreement on the issue by Nov. 30, the last day before the state could take control of the entire school district if a solution has not been reached.

Public opposition to privatization has surprised few.

"It's not unexpected," Schweiker spokesman Steve Aaron said of the pending lawsuit. "However we're confident we will prevail and that we will at long last be able to bring the much needed academic reforms that the children of Philadelphia so richly deserve, as well as the financial fixes that are so long overdue in the district."

Neither Schweiker's nor Street's offices wanted to comment in depth on the lawsuit until they had actually see it.

"I think the mayor would like to take a look at the lawsuit, Street spokeswoman Luz Cardenas said. "We haven't seen it yet and he would be interested in looking at it."

"He believes that people have the right to exercise their freedoms if they so choose," she added. "We understand that this is a pretty important issue to many Philadelphians, and that they're very concerned with the school district."

Edison has assumed control of other public schools across the country, and has met with opposition quite frequently.

"There are those that feel very strongly about the issue of privatizing public schools, but Schweiker feels it's the right thing to do," Aaron said.

"The folks pushing this lawsuit are defending the status quo, and it's a status quo in which 55 percent of the kids are failing reading and math. That's not a status quo that we're willing to live with," he added.

Many schools have been protesting the plans for privatization on their own. Over the past week and a half, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now has held about 20 news conferences at different schools to discuss the issue, including one yesterday at Olney High School.

Staff, students and members of Olney's school council gathered yesterday afternoon to voice their opposition to privatization.

"Twenty schools have stepped forward and said 'We don't want this, we don't want to see Edison come here, no way, no how,'" said Jeff Ordower, spokesman for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now.

While Ordower's organization and the schools that have been a part of the series of news conferences are not involved in the lawsuit, Ordower said they were all "absolutely" in favor it.

Ordower said an additional 25 schools were supporting his association's work, even though meetings at those schools had not yet been held.

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.