Schoolmageddon ’13: Shocking Poll Shows Parents Unhappy With Philly Schools

Who could’ve seen this coming? WHYY reports:

The Philadelphia School District’s financial woes appear to have to have badly bruised its reputation, according to a new survey released by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Fifty-two percent of the poll’s respondents graded the public school system “poor,” up from 35 percent last year. Only 18 percent deemed it “good” or “excellent.”

“This is the lowest positive rating for the schools in the five years that Pew has been polling on this topic,” said Larry Eichel, a director of Pew’s Philadelphia program. “It seems to me that this funding crisis has gotten more attention, and has been generally seen as a more significant event than some of [the school district’s budget problems] in the past.”

More from the poll:

Residents were split on whom to blame for the district’s current funding crisis. Thirty-one percent said Mayor Michael Nutter and the City Council bear the most responsibility, while the same percentage put the blame on Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett and the state legislature. Twenty-one percent blamed school administrators and the School Reform Commission. And 11 percent named the labor unions representing teachers and other school employees.

As a result of the district’s budget difficulties, 48 percent of Philadelphians said they expect families to seek other education options within the city, and 23 percent expect families to start leaving. Twenty percent said the school situation will make little difference to residents.

Among Philadelphians who expect to move out in 5 to 10 years, 23 percent named schools and child-upbringing issues as a primary reason for departing.

National education reformer Diane Ravitch is among those who’ve noticed the poor state of Philly schools. She spoke Tuesday night at the Free Library. WHYY reports:

In an interview with WHYY/NewsWorks, Ravitch said that the Philadelphia School District is one of the most troubled public school systems in the United States. But she does not blame teachers for the district’s woes.

“I’d say Philadelphia and Detroit would be the two worse off in the country,” she said, “because it’s that combination of poverty and segregation and desperate underfunding.”

Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration, district officials and advocacy groups like the Philadelphia School Partnership have argued that the city’s schools would be better off if teachers agreed to health care and work-rule concessions. The school district is seeking more than $100 million in givebacks, including pay cuts, from the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.

Ravitch is optimistic because, she said, the public is finally turning against excessive testing and market-based reform.

“Protecting our public schools against privatization and saving them for future generations of American children is the civil-rights issue of our time,” she said.

But at least one school in Philadelphia has saved itself t0 fight another day. CBS3 reports about West Catholic’s reinvention after being announced  for closure last  year.

“There were 55 freshmen that enrolled last year and this year. There are 130 children who are in the freshman class. It’s almost 300 percent growth in one year,” Casey Carter of Faith in the Future Foundation said.

The announced closing of West and St. Hubert’s in the city, plus Bonner-Prendergast in Delaware County and Conwell-Egan in Bucks County became a catalyst to find students, raise money – and there’s progress.

“Giving is up 40 percent this year and resulted in $14.5 million in giving from the alumni alone in the last year,” Carter said.

Across the system the 17 freshman classes show a three percent growth.

Never fear. Superintendent Hite is here. CBS3 reports:

Amid concerns that students are walking unfamiliar routes to new schools, Philadelphia’s schools superintendent took to the streets.

In the first week of the new school year, there were reports that volunteers who were supposed to be guarding the safe walking paths to schools were nowhere to be seen. Superintendent William Hite yesterday walked some students home from the Ethel Allen School in North Philadelphia, saying you couldn’t miss the volunteers with their fluorescent green vests.

“You could see them blocks away,” Hite said. “So you could actually see what the corridor is, just by looking for their vests.”