William Penn Foundation Donates $1.5 Million for Phila. School District Restructuring

Courtney Williams's picture
Friday, February 24, 2012

The William Penn Foundation is donating $1.5 million to help restructure the Philadelphia School District, and officials said Wednesday they thought the move could bring more funds from the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors.

The money would go directly to pay for what is regarded as a much-needed management consultant, William Penn president Jeremy Nowak said Wednesday.

Nowak also said the foundation would help the School Reform Commission identify other private funders to help turn the district around.

School Reform Commission Chairman Pedro Ramos "and I are going on a fund-raising tour to see if we can be helpful," Nowak said in an interview. "I think this is a defining moment for the city of Philadelphia."

For William Penn, the $1.5 million appears to be just the start.

"We want to be part of the action. I think we're going to partner more," Nowak said. "It won't be operating money - we can't fill that public hole - but closing the achievement gap for low-income kids is going to be a major organizing principle of the foundation going forward."

Beyond the foundation's own contribution, the move is significant because Philadelphia's philanthropic community has traditionally been loath to donate on a large scale to the district, which was viewed by many as a bad risk, with management and finance problems and a lack of transparency in operations.

This year, William Penn itself pulled $1 million from the district because of concerns about financial management.

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