Civic News

Amid push for local control, Philly schools get a crowdfunding tool

Philly FUNDamentals is a website that lets schools reach donors directly. Here's how that ties into the proposed dissolution of the School Reform Commission.

The Fund for the School District of Philadelphia launched Philly FUNDamentals Wednesday, a site aimed at letting schools directly raise cash for projects. The platform went live just hours before Mayor Jim Kenney announced a timeline for the dismantlement of the state-run School Reform Commission, in a bid to let schools operate with more local control.

A nine-member school board, appointed by the mayor from a list of 27 suggestions by a nominating panel, will be formed in its stead.

School Superintendent William Hite, who after Kenney’s announcement said the District’s priorities “remain the same,” praised the Philly FUNDamentals website as a way to obtain targeted resources for students.

“Each school community is unique, with its own set of needs and challenges,” Hite said in a press release. “Philly FUNDamentals will allow us to help tackle the inequity we see in education today by ensuring students have the targeted resources they need to succeed.”

On the website, school principals make the case for their school and the project they want to get done. They run the gamut: from $15,000 for interactive whiteboards at the D. Newlin Fell School in South Philly, to $150,000 for a library at Bache-Martin School in Fairmount.

“We listened to our donors’ requests for greater transparency and quicker return on investment, and we believe Philly FUNDamentals delivers both,” said the fund’s CEO, Donna Frisby-Greenwood, a former big-wig at the Knight Foundation. “Not only does it foster a sense comfort among donors, but it also gives our schools a larger stake in the fundraising process.”

Gina Hubbard, principal at Northeast Philly’s Joseph J. Greenberg Elementary School, said the institution will use the site to tap into a network of parents, neighbors and churches and raise the funds it needs. The K-8 school needs new drapes for the auditorium, new lunchroom tables and updated interactive whiteboards.

“I’m really pleased with the site,” Hubbard said. “We have constant needs with keeping up with technology.”

The school is no stranger to crowdfunding. Last year it used GoFundMe — in conjunction with a matching grant — to supply the school with 70 Chromebooks. Teachers, individually, have also been turning to crowdfunding sites like Donors Choose to help get extra supplies for the classroom.

As for the SRC, on Nov. 16 it will be holding a vote to dissolve itself, per chairwoman Joyce Wilkerson. It’s a virtual slam dunk, as both Wilkerson and Gov. Tom Wolf are in favor of Philly to take ownership of the 130,000-student system.

Looks like those protesters at Pennovation got what they wanted.

Companies: School District of Philadelphia

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