Philly Public School Proponents Swat an Olive Branch from PSP

Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP) received a thorough grousing recently for favoring charters over the district in their grant making despite numerous local public school closures due to budgetary issues. In a gesture that seems very much designed to disprove their critics, PSP announced $6 million in grants to two district schools and a district partnered program last Wednesday. The Philadelphia Daily News broke down the list of grant recipients and how much money each will receive: "Hill-Freedman Middle School in East Germantown, $2.6 million; Science Leadership Academy in Center City, $1.9 million; and the Sustainability Workshop in the Navy Yard, $1.5 million."

PSP executive director Mark Gleason claims that PSP works toward a "citywide solution to education [that] requires scaling up what’s great in every sector — district, charter, nonpublic." Not everyone is convinced.

The fund has only given money to the district twice; last week's $6 million was the second time. Perhaps more importantly, as one commentator pointed out on The Inquirer's Philly School Files Blog, the three institutions PSP supported with this latest round of gifts all have admissions standards. Though none are exceptionally stringent, some people equate the support of any school with any type of pre-requisite to the support of a "brain drain" on surrounding schools.

In this way, continues the argument, PSP indirectly perpetuates the nasty trend of declining academic performance at Philly public schools which officials can then cite when explaining why we should further defund them; public school performance continues to slide as the funding dries, and so on. From that perspective, PSP's latest six million did little more than put a glasses-and-mustache disguise on their normal modus operandi: the slow and systematic undermining of Philly's public school district to make way for privatizers.

Commenting on the School Files post, a more solidly pro-charter voice dismissed PSP's $6 million gift as money "thrown out the window... This is like spending $6MM to build a better square wheel." It wouldn't surprise me if some of the same people had in mind when they called Phillies and Eagles enthusiasts "The Meanest Fans in America" are posting the comments on these education blogs.

But what do you call it when people heckle over things that actually matter? I think that's good old-fashioned civic engagement and it's why I love my city.