Protesters say visiting philanthropists want to defund public schools

Posted: October 02, 2013

ABOUT 20 PROTESTERS chanted outside a North Philadelphia charter school yesterday afternoon, claiming a group of visiting philanthropists were "deciding what education looks like in America, not the parents, not the students."

The activists from Fight for Philly and the Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools protested outside Grover Cleveland Mastery Charter School on 19th Street near Erie Avenue, where attendees of a conference, "All of the Above: How Donors Can Expand a City's Great Schools," were taking a tour.

The conference is being held at the Union League and is organized by the Philanthropy Roundtable, a national nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., that describes itself on its website as "America's leading network of charitable donors working to strengthen our free society, uphold donor intent, and protect the freedom to give."

The organization counts "individual philanthropists, families and private foundations" as its members.

Many of the protesters, like retired district teacher Ron Whitehorne, claim those members want to defund public schools.

"The forces that are behind this effort are all about starving the public sector," Whitehorne said. They're "promoting what they call school choice, which, as far as we're concerned is an effort at privatization, taking away power from our elected school boards and communities and investing it into these unaccountable boards of hedge fund managers and folks like that."

Jay Saper said the reformers attending the conference were deciding what education looks like in the country, "not the parents, not the students, [but] the people with the millions if not billions of dollars."

A Mastery Charter Schools spokeswoman issued a statement at the protest. "The Roundtable chose to tour Grover Cleveland Mastery Charter School as an example of a successful neighborhood turnaround school. Mastery Charter Schools is incredibly disappointed that a small number of misguided demonstrators chose to disrupt a school day and protest a successful neighborhood school."

The donors also visited Mercy Vocational High School, but the activists noted they did not visit a district school.

On Twitter: @ReginaMedina


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