Earlier this year, the William Penn Foundation commissioned a report from the Boston Consulting Group on the future of the Philadelphia public schools. BCG, as is customary, recommended closing dozens of public schools and opening dozens of privately managed charters.

Parents and community leaders were outraged.

One group, Parents United for Public Education, complained that the William Penn Foundation was engaged in lobbying, and it sought a legal opinion from the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia to support its claim.

Please read the linked article. It reveals an intent to privatize public schools, not to study their needs dispassionately.

The hard-charging president of the William Penn Foundation has suddenly resigned, in what appears to be an ouster by the board. Is this a mini-replay of the Ford Foundation’s ill-fated intervention into school politics in New York City in 1968-70? No one knows, for now. Perhaps the foundation did not enjoy being cast in the role of villain in the city’s struggles.

The interesting story here is that Philadelphia parents (and give credit here to the tireless Helen Gym) pressed the theory that the new muscular venture philanthropy crossed a clear line from philanthropy to political activism.

In the past decade, a handful of very wealthy foundations have used their funding to steer public schools, without regard to the wishes of parents or to the democratic process. Philadelphia parents just threw a wrench into the gears of the privatization machine.