“Backpack Full of Cash” World Premier

Philadelphia Film Festival

October 22nd & October 29th, 2016

Narrated by Matt Damon, this feature-length documentary, explores the growing privatization of public schools and the resulting impact on America’s most vulnerable children.

Before the 2016 U.S. presidential election and the appointment of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, filmmakers Sarah Mondale and Vera Aronow couldn’t have known that the national education debate would dramatically shift to the very issues at the hear of their film: Charter Schools, Vouchers and Privatization.

This documentary takes viewers into the world of market-based education “reform”.

BACKPACK FULL OF CASH is a cautionary tale about how, in cities like Philadelphia, privatization and funding cuts have had a devastating impact on public schools, and the most vulnerable children who rely on them.

The film also showcases a model for improving schools – a well-resourced public school system in Union City, New Jersey, where poor kids are getting a high quality education without charters or vouchers.

BACKPACK features genuine heroes like the principals, teachers, activists, parents and most hearteningly, students who are fighting for their education.

Education writer David Kirp, former Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch, and policy expert Linda Darling Hammond are among the national thought leaders who provide analysis in the film.

BACKPACK builds a case for public education as a basic civil right.

Filmed in Philadelphia, New Orleans, Nashville and other cities, BACKPACK takes viewers through the tumultuous 2013-14 school year, exposing the world of corporate-driven education “reform” where public education — starved of resources — hangs in the balance.

Providing viewers an inside look into how a nationwide coalition of “reformers” is moving the public toward charter schools, vouchers and other programs that shift funds and control away from the public to the private sector.

BACKPACK follows students, parents, teachers and activists through the tumultuous 2013-14 school year in Philadelphia and other cities, giving viewers an inside look at what happens to public schools when scarce taxpayer dollars are shifted into private hands.

Key participants include children whose lives were upended by the dramatic events that rocked the Philadelphia school district in 2013-14, as well as local leaders including City Council member Helen Gym, Philadelphia’s Chief Education Officer Otis Hackney (former Principal of South Philadelphia High) and School Superintendent William Hite.

The film leaves viewers with critical questions about what it will mean for our nation’s democracy if public education disappears.

You can still see this film in a couple different ways – you can stream this documentary at home, or host a screening with your community, or find scheduled screenings.

If you want to get involved in restoring public education, BACKPACK offers a few different ways to do so.  If you want to learn more about the effects of Charter Schools on children, families and public schools, then check out these two blog posts,

Emily Kaplan’s Reflections on No Excuses Charter Schools,  and her post on How Parental Power(lessness) Distinguishes Suburban Public Schools from Urban Charters