For 15 years, Philadelphia schools have been run by an unaccountable, undemocratic, unpopular, and unsuccessful administration – the School Reform Commission.
Last year, more than 75% of Philadelphia voters approved a referendum to abolish the SRC. Why? Perhaps because the SRC’s history is plagued by corruption, unconstitutional acts, disrespect for its own employees and students, and utter inefficacy. The ongoing, state-generated budget crisis should put to rest any argument that continuing to give away control of our school district will somehow increase our access to state funding.
The only legally realistic path for the abolition of the SRC is for it to vote to disband itself. The current members have been unwilling to do so. However, the pending resignations of Commissioners Neff and Houstoun, and the upcoming end of term for Commissioner Simms, creates an opportunity for Mayor Kenney and Governor Wolf to appoint a majority who will vote to disband the SRC.
The appointment of new SRC members provides our best, and perhaps only, opportunity to make that a reality in the foreseeable future. These three appointments would immediately hold a majority and thus be able to pass any resolution.
For those who fear the change, be aware that it would not happen overnight. According to the law authorizing the SRC, "The dissolution declaration shall be issued at least one hundred eighty (180) days prior to the end of the current school year and shall be effective at the end of that school year."
In other words, even if the commissioners voted to dissolve tomorrow, it would likely still take until the end of the 2017-18 school year for the SRC to be disbanded. This gives Philadelphia ample time to sort out the selection process of a new school board. The idea of delaying even longer than that should be unacceptable to anyone who truly stands for Philadelphia and its public schools.
It is time for our representatives in Mayor Kenney and Governor Wolf to represent their constituents and support local school control in Philadelphia. We ask that Kenney and Wolf only consider candidates who are ready and willing to dissolve the School Reform Commission.
Not only do we believe that Philadelphia has the right to self-governance, but we believe that the last 15 years of mismanagement have proven that we would do a better job. Philadelphia both deserves and needs local control of its schools.