Philadelphia, Nov. 2, 2017 – City Council Education Committee Chair Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell (3rd District) on Thursday began the legislative process of reauthorizing a locally appointed Board of Education that will replace the state-authorized School Reform Commission (SRC).
The resolution introduced by Councilwoman Blackwell will help ensure a seamless transition from state control of the School District of Philadelphia via the SRC to a local oversight board that will be accountable to Philadelphia residents.
“In 2014, I introduced a resolution that put the question of whether the SRC should be dissolved and replaced by local oversight before Philadelphia voters. The public’s response to the May 2015 vote was overwhelmingly in favor of local control,” Councilwoman Blackwell said. “I thank the Commissioners – who serve with devotion to Philadelphia public school students – for their commitment to our City. But the time has come for Philadelphians to have a greater role in deciding the direction and future of our public schools.”
If the resolution introduced on Thursday is approved by Council and signed by the Mayor, the question of whether to re-authorize the Philadelphia Board of Education will be put to voters in the May 2018 primary election. However, the Board will only have the powers granted by the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter if the SRC is also dissolved by the Commonwealth.
Once the Board of Education is fully authorized under the Charter, the process of appointing its nine members will begin. Three persons for every available seat on the nine-member Board will be nominated by a diverse 13-member Educational Nominating Panel appointed by the Mayor. Out of that pool of names, the Mayor will then consider and appoint members with the advice and consent of a majority of all of the members of City Council following public hearings.
As with all legislation that is considered for approval by City Council, members of the public will be informed and invited to participate and offer testimony throughout the Board of Education confirmation process.
Councilwoman Blackwell introduced the legislation proposing re-authorization of the Board of Education following an address delivered by Mayor Jim Kenney, in which he joined public school advocates and many members of City Council in calling for an end to governance by the SRC.
“As Vice Chair of the Committee on Education, I join the many who applaud the Mayor for his leadership and look forward to supporting the Administration’s efforts in setting up a local process for appointing a school board,” Councilwoman Reynolds Brown said. “This action is long overdue. As we look to the near future, we must be always reminded that the most important focus is our children, the children in the City of Philadelphia.”
While local accountability and oversight will represent a dramatic and long overdue change in School District governance, taxing authority will continue to be split between the Commonwealth and the City of Philadelphia. Council President Darrell L. Clarke, long an advocate for local control, stressed that while City taxpayers deserve to reclaim authority over public schools, they and Philadelphia school students also deserve – and have yet to receive – fair and equitable treatment by the Pennsylvania General Assembly.
“By moving toward local control, the City of Philadelphia is taking some ownership of unwise management decisions over which we had no say. Philly students have ultimately suffered the consequences of years of uneven, at times chaotic, management. That is morally wrong and must come to an end,” Council President Clarke said. “But just as the adults here – including Mayor Kenney and my colleagues on Council – have stepped up time and again for our schools, we must also have greater cooperation and collaboration from our counterparts in the Harrisburg.”
He continued: “Education is a right of every child in this country, and it is the responsibility of government at every level. It is a national embarrassment that the Commonwealth has shirked that responsibility for so long, that this wealthy state features the most inequitable public education system in the country, and that the question of what black and brown children deserve will soon be litigated before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. I want to thank our governor, Tom Wolf, and our delegation in Harrisburg for consistently stepping up on behalf of Philadelphia public school students. It is well past time for all of the adults in the room, both here and in the state Capitol, to figure out a fair and equitable way to meet the educational needs of all children in the Commonwealth.”
Read the resolution:
110217 JLB Philadelphia Board of Education Charter Change