Partnership has raised more than $50 million to give to ‘great’ schools

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

The two-year-old Philadelphia School Partnership, at the center of the city’s strategy to support "great" schools regardless of who runs them, announced Thursday that it was more than halfway to its goal of raising $100 million from area foundations, corporations and individuals.

At a press conference attended by Mayor Nutter and School Reform Commission Chairman Pedro Ramos, PSP executive director Michael Gleason said that his group has commitments for $51.9 million.

Its Great Schools Fund disburses grants on a competitive basis to public, charter, private and parochial schools serving low-income students for "transformation, expansion and start-up of high-performing schools." It has already given out more than $7 million in grants.

The event was held at the Philadelphia Charter School for the Arts and Sciences at H.R. Edmunds in Frankford, a former District school taken over this year by the charter organization String Theory.

String Theory, which runs the Philadelphia Performing Arts Charter in South Philadelphia, has been awarded $2 million from PSP to aid with the Edmunds turnaround.

The biggest donors to PSP are the William Penn Foundation, which has given $15 million, and the Maguire Foundation, which has given $5 million.

According to PSP, the remaining $31.9 million is from 20 investors, including the Ace Charitable Foundation, money manager Ted Aronson, the J. Mahlon Buck Jr. family, Cigna, Janney Montgomery Scott, JP Morgan Chase, Lincoln Financial Foundation, Ned and Marcia Kaplan, Patricia Kind, the Samuel S. Fels Fund, Eustace Wolfington, and PSP board members Evie McNiff, John Stine, Michael O’Neill and Janine Yass, as well as several anonymous donors.

PSP’s Mike Wang said that not all the donors wanted the amounts of their donations listed, but that the donations from that group range from "the $1,000 range to the $2 million range."

The initial grants made by PSP last fall included $1.5 million to Mastery Charter and $450,000 each to Universal Companies and ASPIRA to help with their conversions of District schools into charters under the Renaissance Schools turnaround initiative.

More recently, PSP awarded $1.3 million to the Catholic prep school Cristo Rey Philadelphia, one of a national network of 24 schools serving low-income students of all faiths. Other grants this year went to the Freire Charter School to support the creation of a new middle school, and to the Sustainability Workshop – a nationally recognized, project-based program for seniors that spun off from the automotive academy at West Philadelphia High and is now seeking to expand into a full four-year school.