School activists are using unusual tactics to fight a contested proposal to overhaul the nearly bankrupt Philadelphia school district: They've gone to the city ethics board.
Their ethics complaint says the two private groups that helped fund and develop the plan should have registered as lobbyists, which would have compelled public disclosure of donors and meetings with public officials.
And while nothing illegal is alleged, the complaint highlights an issue that has become increasingly relevant as cash-strapped schools nationwide seek money from nonpublic sources to offset budget cuts. Supporters say private money funds badly needed innovations, yet critics say there is not enough transparency.
"Is it fair for a small number of really rich people to take over educational policy-making?" said Kenneth Saltman, an education professor at DePaul University in Chicago. "Who are the lobbyists really working for? Who's funding them?"