Saying the Philadelphia public schools were in crisis, restaurateur Stephen Starr came forward today with a fund-raiser at his 21 restaurants in the city.

At a news conference with schools chief William Hite, Starr said the initiative - Support Our Schools - will fund multimedia labs, elementary school playgrounds, and six-week summer internships.

Support Our Schools - initially running for a month but perhaps longer - would solicit donations from the company's Philadelphia customers, which Starr estimated at 40,000 a week. A notice appears on each guest check, and customers can contribute whatever they wish and add it to the meal's total. The entire donation, Starr said, would go to the schools.

The goal is $100,000.

Starr said the company also would donate $25,000.

No restaurateur has the impact of Starr, whose Philadelphia restaurants - from the seasonal Square Burger on Franklin Square to the posh Buddakan, Butcher & Singer and Parc - employ 2,500 people. He also has restaurants in New York City, Atlantic City, Washington, D.C., and Florida.

Starr said he was moved by Mayor Nutter's recent call to the business community to help the School District of Philadelphia, which reports a $320 million funding gap. "That struck a nerve with me," he said.

Starr also said his wife, January Bartle, saw blogs by individual teachers who were seeking ways to pay for school supplies.

Starr joins other Philadelphia restaurateurs in reaching out to the school district with dedicated projects, including Marc Vetri and Jeff Benjamin, who lead a much-praised lunch program, and Rob and Maggie Wasserman, whose Burger Brawl competition raises tens of thousands of dollars a year.