Philadelphia district staffers and education consultants have proposed a dramatic plan to close 64 Philadelphia public schools over the next five years in the face of a seemingly irreversible budget crisis. The schools would be transferred to so-called “achievement networks,” smaller pilot programs which run by charter school networks and other education nonprofits.
Chief Recovery Officer Thomas Knudsen said that more direct academic services “are now going to be pushed directly into the field,” although a document sent by Chief Academic Officer Penny Nixon to principals over the weekend still called for some academic services to run out of the central office.
It’s time to move away from “command and control” to a “service delivery” model for a diverse school portfolio, Knudsen said.
The plan, while saying that it is premised on giving parents more choices, doesn’t include any direct promises that schools will get what most parents say they want - smaller classes, art and music teachers, libraries, nurses, adequate security - all of which has been cut this year. And it relies on being able to attract and keep talented principals and teachers in an atmosphere of fiscal austerity, find the money to properly train and support them, and have the resources to give them the materials they need.
The plan, announced Wednesday, is aimed at closing a $218 million budget shortfall for this year alone, and a projected $1.1 billion shortfall by the year 2018. Knudsen projects that 40 percent of Philly schoolkids will be enrolled in charter schools by then.