The Philadelphia School Partnership is more than halfway to its goal of raising $100 million to support education reform innovations in the city's public, private, and charter schools, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
The nonprofit partnership has raised $51.9 million in just under two years for its Great Schools Fund, which re-grants the funds to support innovations that align with the ideals of the Great Schools Compact, a pledge signed last December by school district, charter school, religious, and city and state officials to close or overhaul low-performing schools and replace them with high-quality alternatives by the 2016-17 school year. In addition to a $15 million grant from the William Penn Foundation in July, the partnership has received $5 million from the Maguire Foundation and $31.9 million from a group of twenty donors that includes the Samuel S. Fels Fund and school reform advocate Janine Yass.
The partnership has already allocated some $7 million in grants, including $2 million to String Theory Schools to support the turnaround of Edmunds Elementary School; $1.3 million over three years to Cristo Rey Philadelphia High School, which will open in fall 2012; $350,000 to Freire Charter School, a high school that is adding a middle school in 2012-13; and $175,000 to the Sustainability Workshop, a project-based alternative senior-year program.
Given that the philanthropic community in Philadelphia had been cautious about funding the school district, in part due to a lack of confidence in the School Reform Commission, PSP's fundraising success to date suggests that its influence is growing. At the same time, the mostly reconstituted SRC has worked to rebuild its relationships with individual donors and institutional funders, PSP executive director Mark Gleason told the Inquirer. "This is now a much broader group of funders than we had a year ago," said Gleason. "We have some corporate funders; we have some individuals; we have some foundations. We have funders who historically supported Catholic schools, who have historically supported charter schools, who weren't that active in funding education at all."
However, Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, noted that PSP has yet to award any grants to district schools and that it does not provide funds to help long-struggling schools improve without completely reconstituting them. "Schools aren't failing because they're bad schools," Jordan told the Inquirer. "There's a serious lack of resources."