After 16 years of state control and constant resistance from our communities, I am glad to see the experiment known as the School Reform Commission finally come to an end. This is a win for every parent and community member who fought for fair funding despite a system that told us our children deserved less. This is a win for every student who has stood up and demanded better for our schools, and raised their voices at countless SRC hearings and meetings. This is a win for every teacher, administrator, and school staff member who wanted to see their voices heard and work valued, even when they saw contracts languish for years.
The city is indebted to the many activists – parents, students, educators and community members – who have for years pressed the fight for local control of schools. They know, as we do, that democracy and the people’s voice is the underpinning of any public institution, especially one that must be a fundamental part of any process of governance.
The return to local control brings additional benefits including increased accountability, student representation on the Board of Education, and much-needed ethics training from the Board of Ethics.
I thank Mayor Jim Kenney and city and School District leaders who will usher us through the transition to local control.
As we begin the process of returning governance of the school district back to the City, we must all stay vigilant and engaged. More than ever, we need a process that ensures that the new governance structure upholds the highest ethical standards and has a robust public process that ensures representation of diverse and often marginalized communities, professional and direct engagement with and understanding of young people and the teaching profession, and a deep commitment to funding equity and racial justice.
Sixteen years ago I sat in at the school board with students and adult activists to oppose the takeover of our schools. Despite the long road that lay ahead, our sit-in was defined by a united sense of justice, hope and a passionate commitment for the future of our public schools and our children and youth. I am proud to stand with all the communities who carry on that legacy into the future ahead.
Councilwoman Helen Gym was sworn in as an At-Large Member of Council in 2016. Her primary concerns include addressing widespread poverty in Philadelphia, particularly through an emphasis on building a quality public education system. For more information, visit phlcouncil.com/HelenGym.