City schools, charters get $2.5M grant

Philadelphia Chief Education Officer Lori Shorr. — PHOTO COURTESY THE NOTEBOOK.ORG

Philadelphia, along with seven other cities, will receive a financial boost to the expanding relationship between the School District of Philadelphia and the charter/private school network, thanks to a multi-million dollar grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Philadelphia will receive $2,499,210, or roughly ten percent of the grant’s full worth of $25 million, and that money will also be used to help better prepare teachers and better educate their students.

City of Philadelphia Chief Education Officer Lori Shorr joined foundation officials on the press call to announce the grant, and said Philadelphia’s portion of the grant will go toward easing public-charter school tensions and increasing the skill set of teachers across sectors.

“Historically, Philadelphia has had a large private school sector, and when we looked across our portfolio, we knew we had to create a higher ground and a common ground for folks to come together and put adult foolishness aside,” Shorr said, noting that Mayor Michael Nutter, in his post as U.S. Conference of Mayors president, has urged other mayors to adopt aggressive pro-education policies. “The [education] compact in Philadelphia includes the district, charters, archdiocese schools and private schools, and we are focusing our $2.5 million grant around improving human capital inside these sectors.

“We are going to work to create an urban leadership academy, where 40 to 50 aspiring principals can attain their certification,” Shorr continued. “To move the needle in Philadelphia, there needs to be a robust set of choices when it comes to hiring principals, and this should get us 40 to 50 candidates when fully implemented.”

According to the foundation, District-Charter Collaboration Compacts were designed to address issues that have often led to tensions between public charter and traditional schools, such as access to equitable funding and facilities, and whether charter schools are open to all students, including those with special needs and English language learners. Through a mix of accountability, collaboration and pledging to share resources and best practices, compact cities are working through many of these issues.

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools has endorsed the grants and the work of the compacts in resolving long-standing issues between traditional public school districts and the burgeoning charter school system.

“When schools and leaders in communities work together, learn from each other, share resources, best practices and sometimes even facilities, collectively we have a better chance at improving the educational opportunities for all children,” said National Alliance for Public Charter Schools President and CEO Nina Rees via a statement released by her office. “We applaud these cities for helping to lead the way and look forward to continuing to learn from their efforts and collaboration to benefit more students throughout the country.”

New Orleans, Hartford, Boston, Denver, New York City and Spring Branch, Texas, were the other cities awarded a grant. These cities were among the 16 that participated in the first round of the initiative; of those 16 cities, eight of the top-performing cities were selected for further participation.

Each Compact city was awarded $100,000 when the Compacts were signed. The competitive grant program for Compact cities was announced in December 2011 and all 16 Compact cities were eligible and competed for the funds.

“The goal is to support these communities in significantly boosting the number of students enrolled in high-performing schools. These cities understand that opening the lines of communication and sharing best practices across schools are an effective way to do that,” said Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Director of Education, College Ready Vicki Phillips. “They have moved beyond the question of whether charters or district schools are better and are working together to benefit all students in these communities. These cities serve as models for what collaboration can do, and we applaud these local leaders for their commitment to advancing college readiness.”

Phillips created the work of William Penn Foundation, School District Partnership and other organizations for helping the city get the grant.

“Many of the compact cities have made great progress, and Philadelphia has bold and courageous proposals,” Phillips said. “If we don’t have commitment from both sectors — traditional schools and charter schools — we won’t be able to solve the really thorny issues. In the end, that’s what we care about.”


Contact staff writer Damon C. Williams at (215) 893-5745 or

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