The William Penn Foundation announced today that it is investing $1.5 million to help streamline the School District of Philadelphia’s operations and create a financially sustainable future.

The Foundation’s resources will be applied to the design and implementation phases of the Boston Consulting Group contract, recently announced by the School Reform Commission. The Foundation will work with the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania to structure and manage the contract with the commission in support of the Boston Consulting Group engagement.

In addition to its direct financial support, the Foundation will help the School Reform Commission to identify additional private resources in support of the initiative.

“This is a defining moment for our schools,” said WPF president, Jeremy Nowak. “To close the achievement gap for Philadelphia’s students, we need to get as much of the District’s funds into the classrooms as possible. Moreover we must be able to trust the financial projections and long term operations of the system.”

The Boston Consulting Group, which has worked extensively with troubled school districts, will examine all of the District’s operating systems, make recommendations to narrow the current funding gap, and create a pathway to future solvency and higher levels of academic excellence.

The District recently hired Thomas Knudsen as part of a long-term strategy to stabilize its finances and operations.  The contract with Boston Consulting Group is designed to assist Knudsen by taking a longer-range look at the way the District operates.

Mayor Michael Nutter was delighted to learn of the Foundation’s support. “The William Penn Foundation has always been here for the city of Philadelphia and its children; there is no stronger advocate for reform and transparency. Their leadership and partnership tells me that as a city we are ready to take on the hard collective work of increasing high-performing options for our students and ensuring the school district is the most effective organization it can be,” noted the Mayor.

Pedro Ramos, chair of the School Reform Commission, thanked the Foundation for its vote of confidence.

“We know the difficulties in front of us,” said Ramos, “and we are hopeful that with help from the private sector, philanthropy, and civil society, we can begin to see real progress.”

Janet Haas, M.D., the Foundation’s board chair, acknowledged that there is no easy solution to cure the District’s financial woes and ensure that all of Philadelphia’s children receive a good education.

“Nothing is more important to the city’s future than improving the quality of K-12 education, and the  Foundation wants to do everything it can to help the School Reform Commission in its search for new ideas and realistic solutions,” said Haas.

“We will work in partnership with the city, the state, the commission, and Philadelphia’s philanthropic and business leaders to find solutions that provide every student a high-quality education and renew parents’ faith that their children can get such an education in Philadelphia.”


The William Penn Foundation, founded in 1945 by Otto and Phoebe Haas, is dedicated to improving the quality of life in the Greater Philadelphia region through efforts that foster rich cultural expression, strengthen children’s futures, and deepen connections to nature and community.  In partnership with others, the Foundation works to advance a vital, just, and caring community. With assets of nearly $2 billion, the Foundation distributes approximately $80 million in grants annually.

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