School Talk: Is private funding the solution to Philly’s school problem?

Editor’s Note: School Talk is an occasional feature that will look at education and parenting issues in South Philly. If you have concerns, ideas or other thoughts about the state of schools and ways to keep improving them, email us at

The struggle is never-ending. Young families have to figure out whether to stay in the city they love or decamp for the better schools of the suburbs.

The new playground the friends group funded. Pic from Naked Philly
A new playground funded by the Friends of Chester A. Arthur. Pic from Naked Philly

Inga Saffron covered this turf in the Inky last week with a spotlight on Chester A. Arthur elementary in Graduate Hospital, where a friends group consisting mostly of people who don’t yet have kids in the school has raised $350,000 for enrichment programs.

With the state seemingly unwilling, and the city unable, to help the Philadelphia School District out of its financial hole, the Friends group has assembled an impressive roster of private funders to fill the breach: Wells Fargo, Keystone Mercy, Pennoni Engineers, Olin Landscape Architects, Drexel University, and Children’s Hospital. Their donations, both cash and in-kind, have enabled the Friends to build the school’s first playground, hire the Walnut Street Theatre to manage a drama program, and buy supplies for the school’s Civil Engineering Club.

That’s certainly an impressive feat, and they plan to raise another $2 million, but the question is, can that formula be replicated in other parts of the city? $2 million is a hole lot of money to raise.

What do you think?

3 thoughts on “School Talk: Is private funding the solution to Philly’s school problem?

  • July 9, 2013 at 12:30 pm

    Doubtful. Looking at Graduate Hospital, its a much wealthier area than say, Strawberry Mansion or North Philadelphia, the poorer the neighborhood, the worse the school here in Philly. Hate to say it, but it’s the truth. I have a hard time believing that the same friends group that started a fundraiser for Chester A. Arthur would be as likely to raise money for other schools in poorer neighborhoods…

    But man, if we could get more of these private donors to reach into their pockets in general once in a while, the whole city would be a better place.

  • July 9, 2013 at 10:02 pm

    Perhaps it would be tough for the money to be replicated, yes. But it is not difficult, and frankly there is no excuse, for the time invested not to be replicated. There is no excuse for a lack of parental involvement in ANY school. Maybe you don’t have the connections to raise funds, but you have just as much time (or lack thereof) as the next parent to volunteer.

  • July 10, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    part of the problem is that you can raise all the money you want for activities, supplies etc. but you can’t pay for staff and their benefits – so until the district figures out the bigger issues, raising that $2mil is somewhat of a waste.

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