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Private Sector Involvement in Urban School Reform: Emerging Themes

Increasingly, the private sector (both for-profit and non-profit) is providing resources and alternative delivery models for urban public schools. Nowhere is the engagement of private sector alternatives more extensive than in Philadelphia, which, in the aftermath of a 2001 state takeover, now has 44 schools managed by private companies or non-profit organizations. This does not include an additional 24 restructured schools, 51 charter schools, and 10 special admission schools. Research for Action (RFA), a Philadelphia-based nonprofit education research group has been monitoring the effects of these changes in the Philadelphia schools. RFA presented findings on the impact of privatization to date at a meeting at the Ford Foundation co-hosted by the William Penn Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, and Ford on October 8, 2004. RFA was joined at this event by representatives of the Institute for Education and Social Policy of New York University, the Consortium on Chicago School Research, and the Center for the Study of Privatization at Teachers College, Columbia University, for a multi-city analysis of the changing role of the private sector in urban public education. This is a brief summary of the major themes that emerged from this event.