Expansion of Educational Opportunities For Philadelphians
Mark Cohen's 39 years in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives have been years of unprecedented expansion of educational opportunities for Philadelphians and other Pennsylvanians. Community College of Philadelphia was popularly known as Snellenburg's University when he was elected because it was located at the site of the old Snellenburg's department store. He and other legislators got funding for it to get a large Center City campus, including the old Philadelphia Mint and many newly constructed buildings, a Northwest Philadelphia Regional Center on the site of the former Pennsylvania College of Optometry blocks away from the West Oak Lane, Olney, and Logan sections of his legislative district, and a Northeast Philadelphia Regional Center within driving distance of the Northeast Philadelphia section of his legislative district.
Cohen and his fellow legislators secured funding for record expansions of the campuses of the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, the University of the Arts, Drexel University, Cheyney University, La Salle University, Lincoln University, Penn State University, and many other universities serving his constituents and other Pennsylvanians.
A backer of the establishment of charter schools in Pennsylvania, legislation he supported helped start three charter schools currently in his legislative district: Imhotep High School, Delaware Valley High School, and Tacony Elementary School. The School District of Philadelphia also benefitted from his support for greater educational funding: an additional high school were created to serve the area in and around his legislative district by the School District: Samuel Simeon Fels High School, as was an additional elementary school, Prince Hall Elementary School, and an additional middle school, Grover Washington Middle School.
The List of schools of the School District of Philadelphia virtually doubled during his legislative tenure, hitting 291 schools run under the direct control of the School District of Philadelphia and 55 charter schools run independently. In 1974, the year that Cohen was first elected, the School District of Philadelphia spent only $171.90 per pupil for operation and maintenance of school buildings. By 1998, the School District of Philadelphia was spending $471.59 per pupil for operation and maintenance.
The efforts of Cohen and other Pennsylvania legislators to expand public school funding led to the building of extensions at Central High School of Philadelphia, Northeast High School (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), Joseph Pennell Elementary School, Benjamin Franklin Elementary School, Laura Carnell Elementary School, J. Hampton Moore Elementary School, Creighton Elementary School, Thomas Finletter Elementary School, as well as others serving students in his legislative district.
In its April 21, 2010 report to the School Reform Commission, the School District of Philadelphia formally acknowledged the key role of elected officials in expanding educational opportunities for Philadelphians. It said "The commitment of our elected officials has made progress possible for the children of Philadelphia. The School District of Philadelphia is grateful to Mayor Nutter, Philadelphia City Council, Governor Rendell, the Pennsylvania General Assembly and our Congressional delegation for their willingness and commitment to invest in the future of our students. The continuing support of our elected officials has made possible the progress we have made to date and will be essential if the School District of Philadelphia is to realize its goal of becoming a system of great schools for all of Philadelphia's children...."
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