PSP Announces Over $50 Million in Funding Commitments towards $100 million Great Schools Fund

Maguire Foundation joins William Penn Foundation and other area funders in collaborative push to invest on large scale in creating and expanding great schools 

PHILADELPHIA, PA – The Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP) announced today that local businesses, foundations, and individuals have committed over $51.9 million to the two-year-old nonprofit, with over $50 million going to the Philadelphia Great Schools Fund.  PSP invests Fund assets as growth capital to support the transformation, expansion and startup of high-performing schools, including public charter, district, and private schools serving low-income students in Philadelphia. The announcement was made at The Philadelphia Charter School for the Arts and Sciences at H.R. Edmunds, a previously low-performing public school that is starting its first year of turnaround through the Philadelphia School District’s Renaissance initiative.

“Every kid in every neighborhood in Philadelphia deserves a great school; we’re thrilled that these investments will help to dramatically increase the number of great schools in Philadelphia, giving access to thousands more families in our city,” said Michael O’Neill, Board Chairman of PSP. “Too often in the past, philanthropists and policymakers have focused their energies on the type of school, whether charter, district, or private, instead of the quality of outcomes.  The leading philanthropists who are part of this effort are checking ideology at the door in favor of focusing on great schools of all types for all kids in the city; and they are coordinating their efforts to increase the impact of their giving.”

PSP announced funding commitments and challenge grants over five years that include: $15 million from the William Penn Foundation, $5 million from the Maguire Foundation, and $31.9 million from a group of 20 investors including the Ace Charitable Foundation, Ted Aronson, the J. Mahlon Buck, Jr. family, Cigna, Janney Montgomery Scott, JP Morgan Chase, Lincoln Financial Foundation, Ned and Marcia Kaplin, Patricia Kind, the Samuel S. Fels Fund, Eustace Wolfington, anonymous donors, and PSP board members Evie McNiff, John Stine, Mike O’Neill and Janine Yass.

“Reaching so quickly the half way mark in a $100 million fundraising effort is a sign that people in the Philadelphia area are committed to the creation of a system of great schools. Our Administration believes every Philadelphian should have access to quality education and this brings us one step closer,” said Mayor Michael A. Nutter. “I want to thank the local businesses, foundations, non-profit organizations and individuals who generously contributed to public, private and charter schools through the Philadelphia School Partnership.” The work of the Great Schools Fund is aligned with the goals of the Great Schools Compact, signed by Mayor Nutter and other city and state education leaders in 2011. The Compact is a commitment to eliminate the 50,000 lowest performing seats in Philadelphia and replace them with higher performing ones.

The Great Schools Fund pools philanthropic dollars from a diverse group of funders to strategically invest in the incubation, startup and expansion of high-performing schools across Philadelphia. Fund dollars are not intended for ongoing operational costs and are not meant to replace city, state, and federal funding. The Fund invests in K-12 schools of any type with the capacity to deliver outstanding educational outcomes for children in the city, including traditional district, charter, and private schools. The goal of the Fund is to replace the 35,000 lowest performing seats in Philadelphia with higher performing ones by 2016-17 through direct investment in turnaround schools and creation and expansion of new high performing schools.  PSP hopes to raise an additional $50 million to achieve this goal.

“This investment is about ensuring that the highest quality K-12 education is accessible to the greatest number of children. We are optimistic that our strong support will inspire other funders to step forward with additional commitments to the Fund,” said Janet Haas, MD, the William Penn Foundation’s board chair.

“The Maguire Foundation has been supporting education reform in a number of ways over the years, but broad-scale improvement in the city has been elusive,” said James J. Maguire, founder of Philadelphia Insurance Cos. and The Maguire Foundation, and a board member of PSP. “We have elected to make this big investment in the Great Schools Fund because we see a real opportunity, through collective action, to achieve citywide improvement.”

Over the next five years, PSP aims to directly fund the creation of 35,000 high-performing seats in Philadelphia schools and indirectly contribute to the creation or transformation of at least 15,000 additional high-performing seats through changes in policies and practices inspired by the Fund’s investments and related activities. PSP’s investment team conducts a rigorous screening process for all grant applicants to evaluate their capacity for delivering strong educational outcomes; its recommendations are vetted by an investment committee before being presented to the PSP Board of Directors for approval. To date, PSP has invested just over $7 million to support the transformation and creation of approximately 5,000 seats through school turnarounds, expansion, and startup grants.

PSP recently awarded $2 million growth grant to String Theory Schools to support the turnaround of H.R. Edmunds Elementary School, a chronically low-performing public school. String Theory currently also operates the Philadelphia Performing Arts Charter School (PPACS), a high-performing school with a focus on S.T.E.M. and the arts. The Philadelphia Charter School for the Arts and Sciences at H.R. Edmunds will enroll up to 950 students in 2012-13.

PSP is reviewing grant applications to the Great Schools Fund and intends to announce additional grants by the start of the 2012-13 school year.

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