The William Penn Foundation has announced a three-year, $15 million grant to the Philadelphia School Partnership to support education reform innovations in the city's public, private, and charter schools.
The partnership's Great Schools Fund will re-grant the funds to support innovations that align with the ideals of the Great Schools Compact, a document signed last December by representatives of the Philadelphia School District, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, charter school organizations, and city and state officials that pledges to close or overhaul low-performing schools and replace them with high-quality alternatives by the 2016-17 school year. PSP aims to award between $8 million and $12 million in grants this year, and up to $10 million to $15 million in subsequent years, executive director Mark Gleason told the Inquirer. The awards will include planning grants for schools that do not yet exist; support for new schools in need of capital to buy computers, acquire facilities, or train staff; and funding to help high-performing schools expand.
While the Penn Foundation, which recently decided to remain a regional foundation rather than expand its work nationally, has traditionally awarded grants in the area of children, youth, and families, its president Jeremy Nowak told the Inquirer that it plans to focus more narrowly on "closing the achievement gap" for low-income students.
Gleason told the Inquirer that the partnership aims to raise $100 million in five years to accelerate the pace of educational change in the city. "[If] we do, we can have a direct impact on a large number of students — we're scaling reform," he added. "Even more important, potentially, is that if we can raise $100 million from a broad cross-section of funders that cuts across traditional political and ideological boundaries, we think we can help to change the dialogue in Philadelphia away from the tension and rivalries between different kinds of schools and into a more collaborative focus on how we can all work together to make sure we have lots of good school options."