Tough decisions ahead for the Philadelphia public school system

The School District of Philadelphia, which has been leaking students even as the city’s school-age population has risen, is now scrambling to keep its sinking ship from capsizing. The city’s School Reform Commission (SRC), which operates in place of a board of education, will close forty schools next year and an additional six every subsequent year until 2017—a tough sell, but the right call when many schools sit half-empty. Meanwhile, the SRC has also announced that it will borrow $300 million to keep the district above water through the end of the school year, a fact that underscores how important it is that the SRC make wise choices with their planned school closures. Previous downsizing efforts by the SRC have raised red flags. For example, when Pepper Middle School was shuttered in March, there were complaints that students had been reassigned to schools of lower quality. In way of allaying such fears, the SRC does claim that these upcoming school closings will be “more informed by academic performance than previous rounds of closures.” We certainly hope so. They don’t need to look far for a solid example of how to navigate the downsizing process.

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Philly schools borrow $300M for expenses,” The Associated Press, November 8, 2012.

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