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NEWS
August 27, 2012 | By Dan Hardy, Inquirer Staff Writer
Joe Watkins has worked for a U.S. president and a senator, has served as an investment company manager, and twice ran for statewide office. In 2010, Students First, the pro-vouchers and charter-school political action committee he headed, made the largest total contribution from a single source to one candidate in Pennsylvania history - $3.3 million to Philadelphia Democrat Anthony Hardy Williams. Watkins, 59, lives in Philadelphia, where he's the pastor of a North Philadelphia church.
NEWS
August 26, 2012 | By Dan Hardy, Inquirer Staff Writer
The Chester Upland school board voted unanimously Thursday night to work with state-appointed Chief Recovery Officer Joe Watkins in crafting a recovery plan for the financially distressed Delaware County district. Watkins was selected as chief recovery officer this month by Pennsylvania Education Secretary Ron Tomalis under new legislation that gives Watkins broad power to recommend closing schools, renegotiating the teachers' contract, making budget cuts, privatizing school management, and turning schools into charters.
NEWS
August 25, 2012 | By Kristen A. Graham, Inquirer Staff Writer
The leadership of the nonprofit Philadelphia School Partnership announced Thursday that it was more than halfway to its goal of raising $100 million to pump into expanding strong schools, whether they're charter, public, or private. That the group has shaken loose $51.9 million in just under two years in a tough economy is a symbol of the considerable and rising influence of the partnership (PSP) in the city's education sector. An energized Mayor Nutter, speaking at a news conference with deep-pocketed donors and city school officials to announce PSP's fund-raising prowess, made it clear he was on board with the organization's goals.
NEWS
August 24, 2012 | BY WILL BUNCH, Daily News Staff Writer
IT MIGHT HAVE once seemed unthinkable: Handing the keys to a large, troubled public-school district over to a high-profile advocate for increasing privatization, including vouchers and for-profit private schools. But activists said that last Friday's surprise announcement that Gov. Corbett had named the Rev. Joe Watkins - an MSNBC pundit who headed the Students First PAC, the pro-voucher group that's dumped millions of campaign dollars on Corbett and other pols - as chief recovery officer to run the Chester Upland schools in Delaware County marks a tipping point.
NEWS
August 19, 2012 | By Dan Hardy, Inquirer Staff Writer
  Joe Watkins, head of a political action committee that supports school choice initiatives, former managing director in an asset management firm, and a Philadelphia minister, has been appointed by state Education Secretary Ron Tomalis to guide the financial recovery of the struggling Chester Upland School District. "Joe is a qualified individual who has the ability to assist the Chester Upland School District with long-term financial stability, as well as ensuring the district's students continue to have access to quality academic programs," Tomalis said in a statement Friday.
NEWS
August 3, 2012 | By Kate Shaw
    With a nearly $300 million deficit, a leadership transition, and rapidly-unfolding plans for a comprehensive governance overhaul, the School District of Philadelphia faces challenges that are unprecedented in its nearly 200-year history. The "Blueprint for Reforming Philadelphia's Public Schools" proposes one course for navigating the rough seas ahead by focusing on two major goals: safe, high-achieving schools for all kids, and the elimination of the district's deficit by 2014.
NEWS
June 27, 2012 | By WILL BUNCH and Daily News Staff Writer
A NEW, big-money political-action committee turned up on the Pennsylvania radar screen this spring — at exactly the same time that the Philadelphia Archdiocese launched a full-court press for legislation in Harrisburg that would pump millions of dollars of scholarship money into its struggling schools. The new Fighting Chance PA PAC shares a name with a self-described grass-roots campaign launched in March by the Pennsylvania Catholic Coalition, and it shares office space with wealthy King of Prussia developer Brian O'Neill, who spearheaded a drive to raise $12 million from 10 anonymous donors earlier this year to keep open four endangered Catholic high schools.
NEWS
June 15, 2012 | Inquirer Editorial
Before New Jersey hightails it down the road to more charter schools, including cyber charters, it needs to ensure better oversight. Gov. Christie has made school choice and more charters key ingredients of his school reform agenda. But state officials must be cautious in entering relatively unknown waters that include cyber charters. Proposed regulations would eliminate the requirement that charter schools operate in "contiguous" school districts, making it easier for online charter schools to operate.
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