This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Two leaders with a passionate interest in education released documents that could provide guidance for fully funding Philadelphia’s public schools.
The day after Gov. Wolf presented his proposed budget, Philadelphia Schools Superintendent William Hite released his "Action Plan 3.0" Wednesday. The 50-plus page document spells out the superintendent’s plan for overlapping "networks" of schools, with a focus on bringing more equity – and more revenue — into the school system.
Equity is important, said Hite, because a scarcity of resources means that not all District students have access to a quality education.
"It is highly dependent on where children live and whether or not they have the ability to gain access to one of our special admit programs," said Hite.
The first category of Hite’s networks – administrative units for overseeing a particular school model – focuses on improving the neighborhood schools attended by more than half of District students. There are eight neighborhood networks. The other networks include turnaround schools, schools for students who have dropped out, and an innovation network.
The plan focuses on funding distribution, but also on bringing in more revenue, period. It highlights a $5,478 per pupil adequacy gap in Philadelphia — or the difference between actual funding and the dollar figure assigned to an adequate education. Philadelphia’s adequacy gap is more than double that of other impoverished districts in the state.
In spite of this deficit, Hite’s Action Plan 3.0 builds on four earlier "anchor goals" — 100 percent graduation rate; 100 percent of 8-year-olds reading on grade level; 100 percent of schools with great principals and teachers; and 100 percent of the funding needed for "great schools."
This year’s READ! By 4th campaign and hiring an additional 40 reading coaches in District schools were tied to the second anchor goal.
But Hite pointed out that he wants to move the discussion away from scarcity and instead talk about about "investment" in schools. "At some point — hopefully right now — we have to get out of this cycle of getting just enough revenue to get by," he said.
Increasing equity by redistributing funds
The plans of Wolf and Hite both call for changes to funding charters.
Hite wants to change the current funding formula because it "requires passing on funding to charter schools for services that they are not responsible for providing."