Unlike his predecessors, Hite doesn't seek to spend money that the financially ailing district simply doesn't have. Instead, he wants to fix outdated business practices and implement better fiscal controls.
Philadelphia schools' abysmal dropout rate is among the highest in the country. About half the students in city schools cannot read or do math at grade level.
Hite's plan calls for more pre-kindergarten seats, a stronger literacy curriculum, vocational programs, and a "virtual school" to compete with the popular cyber charters drawing students from traditional public schools.
Already, some critics are saying the superintendent's plan is too basic, and won't be enough to compensate for the years of muddling in mediocrity that city students have experienced.
Hite, though, is simply being realistic. It's not that he doesn't want to do more; it's that he has to do what he can within the confines of a budget that for several years has exceeded actual allocations.
The superintendent insists his plan doesn't add any new expenses, but he has yet to put a price tag on it or provide a timetable for its implementation. He must do both for his proposal to have any credibility.
There also should be a sense of of urgency to Hite's plan, and that's not just because the average tenure for an urban superintendent is only three years. Every day's delay in improving Philadelphia schools puts its students a day closer to entering the adult world ill prepared to succeed.
With the release of Hite's plan, the city would do well to reflect on its commitment to public education. Philadelphia will never be the city it wants to be - with less crime and more jobs - until its schools attract residents and businesses, instead of repelling them.
The Corbett administration has all but said the days when Philadelphia could expect more state aid for schools are over, at least for the time being. The School Reform Commission has sought support from nongovernment sources, but if Philadelphians want more investment in their schools, they should look to themselves.
Mayor Nutter could have made an effective argument for more school aid when he first called for more accurate property assessments, but he instead promised that the Actual Value Initiative would be revenue-neutral. A promise made should be a promise kept. But Philadelphia has also promised its children a good education. They're still waiting.