- The Washington Times - Friday, November 30, 2001

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Hundreds of high school students walked out of class yesterday protesting a planned state takeover of their school district and Gov. Mark Schweiker's plan to privatize dozens of the worst-performing schools.
The largest exodus was from Strawberry Mansion High School, where up to 500 students left at 9:30 a.m., district spokesman Paul Hanson said.They were dispersed by police, he said.
"They're not looking out for our best interest. It's a struggle at our school already and they're making it worse," said Shereen Davis, 15, a William Penn High School sophomore. She was among dozens of students protesting at City Hall after leaving school.
State and city education officials are negotiating a sweeping reform plan for the school district, which is struggling with dismal test scores, a teacher shortage, a $216 million budget deficit and crumbling buildings.
Mr. Schweiker and Mayor John F. Street are trying to reach agreement by today's deadline. After that, the state could take control of Pennsylvania's largest school system.
"The fact that we're still talking, we consider that progress," said Schweiker spokesman Steve Aaron.
Activists have complained about Mr. Schweiker's proposal to hire private companies, such as Edison Schools Inc., to run 60 schools.
A group called the Coalition to Keep Our Public Schools Public filed a lawsuit yesterday asking the state Supreme Court to block Mr. Schweiker's plan and declare the state takeover law unconstitutional.


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