Last year, the St. Louis Public Schools were on the brink of bankruptcy, facing an astonishing $75 million year-end deficit and a near-term $99 million cash shortfall. The district was spending more than $11,000 every year for each of its approximately 40,000 students – out of a total budget of $450 million. While the district had the highest rate of per-student spending in the state, just over $6,000 per student actually found its way to the classroom.
Tens of thousands of dollars were squandered to insure vehicles the school district no longer owned. Money went toward maintaining buildings and facilities that had long been abandoned. Books and supplies were ordered, but then sat in warehouses, while teachers reported scrounging at yard sales for used books.
Competition is working in Philadelphia, which tripled the number of schools meeting federal standards for progress. Philadelphia schools showed significantly higher gains in test scores than the state average, writes Lisa Snell.
The gain rates achieved in Philadelphia are among the highest of any of the nation’s largest school districts, according to the Council of Great City Schools.
Moreover, the gains in student achievement occurred in both contracted “partner” schools and in traditional public schools, providing the first substantial evidence that the city’s public-private school management experiment — to turn around the district’s lowest performing schools — is working.
Edison says its schools posted the largest gains of any of the district’s major school management partners.