Governing Urban Schools in the Future

Posted by Pew Charitable Trusts on February 8, 2016

Governing Urban Schools in the Future: What’s Facing Philadelphia and Pennsylvania

In 2001, the state of Pennsylvania took over the School District of Philadelphia. The move, which came with the consent of the city’s mayor and included an increase in state and city funds for the schools, followed years of turmoil during which the district twice sued the state over funding, the superintendent resigned in frustration, and state officials pushed to have a private company manage Philadelphia’s schools. The School Reform Commission (SRC), which was created as part of the takeover, runs the district, with three members appointed by the governor and two by the mayor. That arrangement has been the subject of continuing debate, with education advocates calling for a return to local control—and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter also advocating an end to the state takeover of the city’s schools.

Given that debate, The Pew Charitable Trusts commissioned an analysis comparing key elements of Philadelphia’s school governance system with those of 15 other major urban districts. The districts—serving Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Miami-Dade, Milwaukee, Newark (NJ), New York, and St. Paul (MN)—were chosen for their size and their demographic and economic similarities to Philadelphia.

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