Administrative building for the School District of Philadelphia

COUNCILMEMBER OH INTRODUCES EDUCATION REFORM PROPOSAL TO ESTABLISH A MAJORITY-ELECTED BOARD OF EDUCATION

In Council News, David Oh, News by PHL Council

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The legislation would create a process for electing five school board members by region to give parents and students a seat at the table through the selection of their own local representative.

Philadelphia, March 18, 2021 – Councilmember David Oh (At-Large) today introduced legislation to modify the structure of the Philadelphia Board of Education into a majority-elected body. The proposal amends Article XII of the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter to create a new regional electoral process for the selection of five Board members, with each elected member representing two adjacent Councilman districts.

The legislation establishes the following regions for school board elections:

  • Northwest (Districts 8 and 4)
  • Northeast (Districts 10 and 6)
  • Central West (District 5 and 3)
  • Central East (Districts 9 and 7)
  • South (Districts 1 and 2)

The Board of Education is tasked with the administration, management and operation of the School District of Philadelphia. Currently, the Board is comprised of nine Mayoral appointees. Oh’s proposal retains four members of the Board to be appointed by the Mayor, while establishing an innovative new approach to allow the public to select five elected representatives by region.

Councilmember Oh says the proposal would increase accountability and transparency by giving residents a direct representative for the schools in their neighborhood.

“By electing the majority of the school board by region, we can provide parents and students with the ability to select someone who is personally invested in and responsible for the quality of schools in their neighborhood,” said Oh.

The School District of Philadelphia is the lone district in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania without an elected school board. The hand-selected Board of Education manages the School District’s multi-billion dollar budget, selects and evaluates the Superintendent of Schools, authorizes charter schools, and works to improve academic performance among other key functions.

In addition to overhauling the structure of the Board, Oh’s proposal would tighten eligibility requirements by clarifying that Board members cannot be employees of the City or School District, hold public office, be an employee of an elected official, or be affiliated with a partisan political organization, a union that directly represents the School District, or vendor engaged in a contractual relationship with the School District.

Oh believes that – given the ongoing management issues, lack of equity, and low academic performance marks – school board reform is long overdue and a critical first step for improving the state of public education in the City.  According to data from the 2018-2019 academic year, roughly two-thirds of district students in the third grade and above did not meet state benchmarks for language arts or math proficiency, and over 30 percent of high school seniors failed to graduate.

“Shifting the school board away from an all-appointed body is not a silver bullet solution for the ongoing crisis of public education in Philadelphia,” said Oh.  “But it is a bold leap in the right direction to ensure increased accountability, transparency, and provides parents and students with a much-needed seat at the table.”

If approved, the proposal will advance to a ballot question before voters this fall.

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