Scotland School is an anachronism, a state boarding school for the children of veterans. It is slated to be shut down because of the fiscal crisis in Pennsylvania. Girard College is also an anachronism, but a successful private school with an endowment reportedly larger than they can spend. Sounds like a partnership could be arranged?
Commentary By: Steven Reynolds
This might seem like a very local issue, but it should have resonance as one possible solution to budgeting problems that are happening across the country at the state and local level. In this case, it is a school run by the Commonwealth of PA, the Scotland School, which is at risk. The Scotland School is a remnant of another time, surely, when the state ran schools for, in this case, the children of veterans. It is due to close this year, because of the fiscal crisis here in PA and at order of Governor Rendell. It is sort of a shame, an historic place that educated so many in PA, successfully, is headed to the scrap heap. Here’s a bit about the school from publicopiniononline.com:
The Scotland School for Veterans’ Children formally opened on June 1, 1895, to serve orphans of soldiers. Over the years it grew to a residential school for children of veterans and military personnel on active duty.
. . .
About 10,000 students have attended Scotland School for Veterans’ Children since its founding.
The students come from diverse geographic, ethnic and social backgrounds, according to the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. All of the students are being prepared for post-secondary education and/or military service – 84 percent of graduates continue their education and 22 percent enlist in the National Guard or Reserves.
Most of the students are refugees from Philadelphia public schools, where the graduation rates, and rates of kids going on to college, are far, far lower. Yes, this school is valuable, despite being an anachronism. But the Scotland School is an expensive anachronism, soaking up nearly four times the dollars per student as much as is spent for other students in the state. The students at Scotland School are rallying to try to save it, focusing on preserving the funds of the Commonwealth that have kept it going for so long, but it might just be there is a solution in the private sector. Enter Girard College, another anachronism serving Philadelphia students.
Girard College is funded by the estate of Stephen Girard, who died in 1831 as perhaps the richest man in America. Stephen Girard gave all of his fortune to found the school, originally for white orphan boys from Philadelphia. No, it is not a college, but a cschool serving children from kindergarten through 12th grade. The school evolved to serve kids of all genders and races, though there is still a restriction that the kids must have just one parent. Girard College’s funds are now managed by the Board of Directors of City Trusts here in Philadelphia. They provide the administration of the endowment that supports Girard College. and that endowment is large. And there have been arguments over whether the enormous estate, grown because of coal mines of Girard property in central, PA, is being adequately spent for the support of Girard College and its students. Stephen Girard’s heirs contested the money in the distant past, and the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote an expose on the huge sums administered by the Board of City Trusts for the support of Girard College in 1997. The conclusion then was that Girard College was not getting the benefit of all the sums it could have received, that the estate was producing far more funds than Girard College could spend. It is not clear that is still the case 12 years later, perhaps because of the secretive nature that has always been the operating strategy of the Board of City Trusts.
So here’s the question. Is the Stephen Girard Estate still producing far more money than Girard College needs to operate? If so, then saving Scotland School seems an entrepreneurial project along the lines of Girard College’s mission. Well, it may be that Girard College doesn’t have the funds to accomplish this task, though the funds from which they draw are hard to figure in scope. The Board of City Trusts is composed of some of the most important leaders in Philadelphia, including Mayor Nutter, Council Chair Anna Verna, and soon to be convicted former State Senator Vince Fumo. It seems to me there is an opportunity to transform Scotland School here, and that Girard College could play a huge role in that transformation. Helping preserve an institution that is serving so many Philadelphia students so well is a goal worth pursuing, even if these officials have a whole bunch of other fiscal priotrities on their slate.
OK, a bit of a creative solution. We’ve got a state institution, Scotland School, which will close soon. We’ve got a private institution, Girard College, which has a whole pile load of money. The missions of the schools are similar and they both perform their tasks of educating students fr better than does the Philadelphia School system. So, would someone besides me mention it to anybody in power over there at the Board of City Trusts?