Mayor Nutter Says It’s Time to Disband the School Reform Commission

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter walks down a blocked off Market Street, with City Hall in the background, in Philadelphia on Friday, Sept. 25, 2015, before Pope Francis' trip. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

(AP Photo/Mel Evans)

(Editor’s note: This is a developing story that will be updated.)

In a major education policy address, Mayor Nutter called today for the dissolution of the School Reform Commission, the state-created board that has overseen the School District of Philadelphia for the last 15 years.

“In my opinion and based on my experience – it is time to end the SRC.,” Nutter said. “It’s time for it to go.”

He called for a transition to a local school board comprised of nine members, five directly appointed by the mayor, four picked by the mayor from a list of 12 nominees prepared by City Council. And he proposed making the shift by September, 2017.

Why? Nutter cited two reasons. City control of its own schools will, he believes, increase community commitment to the district. Second, “Local control also eliminates confusion over who is responsible for what,” Nutter said. “Over the last 8 years, we’ve seen a revolving door of leadership everywhere but our local government – three governors, five Secretaries of Education, five School District Superintendents, six SRC Chairs and 17 SRC members.”

“Returning to local control means the voters of this city know who to hold accountable for educational outcomes – the Mayor.” Read more »

ThinkFest Preview: Farah Jimenez on Rethinking How We Solve Social Problems

Farah Jimenez listens during a news conference Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014, in Philadelphia. Gov. Tom Corbett said Wednesday he will authorize $265 million in advance payments to the Philadelphia school district to allow schools to open "on day one" and help avoid layoffs. He said the money represents early disbursement of funds that the schools would normally receive through the academic year. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Farah Jimenez. | Photo by Matt Rourke/AP

Farah Jimenez doesn’t shy away from massive, intimidating, systemic problems. Last year, the Republican was tapped to tackle Philadelphia’s educational woes as a member of the School Reform Commission. Before that, she battled homelessness as president of the People’s Emergency Center in West Philadelphia from 2010 to 2014. Between 1997 and 2010, she worked as executive director of Mt. Airy USA, helping to bolster the community development corporation and overhaul the area’s commercial corridor.

At ThinkFest, Jimenez will give a presentation titled, “Shaking Up the System: Rethinking How We Solve Social Problems.” We expect it will draw from her long history of taking on huge city issues. Read more »

Philly Teachers Case Goes to Pa. Supreme Court

empty classroom

The School Reform Commission and Philadelphia Federation of Teachers will duke it out before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court over whether the SRC has the power to unilaterally make changes to teachers’ benefits.

The case springs from the SRC’s effort last October to cancel the PFT’s contract and require members to pay a portion of their own health care insurance, a measure imposed with bargaining at at impasse. A lower court in January overturned that effort. The appeal has now reached the state’s top court. Read more »

We Want Answers: New SRC Chair Marjorie Neff

Photograph by Claudia Gavin

Photograph by Claudia Gavin

The School District of Philadelphia has been beset in recent years by both financial and academic challenges. It seems to me you have the most difficult job in town.
Definitely the most difficult volunteer position in town.

Why did you volunteer?
You know, there are times when I ask myself, “Why am I doing this?” But I also believe that just because something’s hard doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it, if you think it’s right.

The perception is that you ascended to the SRC chair in part because you voted against the charter expansion.
That might’ve been the perception, but that was not the reality. The Governor asked me to do this. We didn’t talk about charter schools before or after as part of his decision-making process. Read more »

Inside Take: 3 Bogus Problems With the Teacher’s Contract

School District of Philadelphia

(Editor’s note: This is an opinion column from a Citified insider.)

Here’s a not-so-bold prediction: Within the next 6 months, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers will have a new contract.

This prognostication stems from two people: Governor Tom Wolf, who put forth an audacious plan to fund Philadelphia’s schools, and Marge Neff, Chair of the School Reform Commission. The dismal economic situation of the district may not have changed. But with Wolf and Neff in place, the plan now seems to be “find a contract that brings stability to schools” instead of the Tom Corbett — Bill Green playbook of “drown the PFT in its own blood and dance on the corpse.”

It’s likely the two sides will find middle ground. In the meantime, Philadelphia will be inundated with hot-takes on things like “winners and losers”. In the end, the vast majority of people with opinions about the contract, and yes, this includes teachers, won’t have read the document.

What they’ll miss, what most people miss, is that the so-called “big issues” of the contract are neither big nor issues. Here is a Cliff Notes look at three of the most common/lazy complaints about the contract, not one of which is near as important as critics imagine. Read more »

SRC Aims for $2.86 Billion Budget in 2016

The School Reform Commission on Thursday adopted a $2.86 billion “lump sum” budget for the 2015-16 school year, providing the fiscal outlines for leaders as they begin to work on the details of that budget.

The outline — approved unanimously by the commission — assumes that the state and city will step forward with a combined $264 million in new revenues for the year, officials said — subtract an $80 million deficit now expected during the school year and the city’s public schools would still be left $180 million with which to make new investments. But individual schools are being told for now to create a “status quo” budget in case those funds don’t materialize. Read more »

PA’s Wealthy School Districts Get Way More Local Cash Than Poor Ones

School District of Philadelphia

School districts across Pennsylvania have felt the impact of state budget cuts and the expiration of federal stimulus dollars over the past few years.

But the money woes of the high-poverty Philadelphia School District have been so extreme that they’ve garnered national attention: Some city schools lack such basics as full-time guidance counselors and nurses.

A new analysis shows that, despite the fact that low-income students come to class with greater needs than their better-off peers, Pennsylvania and its municipalities actually spend less per pupil in the poorest districts than in the richest ones. Way less, actually. According to the Washington Post, “In Pennsylvania, per-pupil spending in the poorest school districts is 33 percent lower than per-pupil spending in the wealthiest school districts.”

Read more »

Former Teachers Sue SRC Over Free Speech at Charter Meeting

Protesters carried signs outside the Feb. 18 SRC meeting. Inside, those signs were confiscated. Photo | Holly Otterbein

Protesters carried signs outside the Feb. 18 SRC meeting. Inside, those signs were confiscated. Photo | Holly Otterbein

Three women identified as former Philadelphia school teachers are suing the School Reform Commission, saying they were deprived of First Amendment rights when they had signs and posters confiscated during the SRC’s controversial meeting February 18th to discuss approval of charter schools. Read more »

Diaz: Replace SRC With Parent-Led Board

Nelson Diaz at his campaign launch. | Photo from Diaz's Facebook page.

Nelson Diaz at his campaign launch. | Photo from Diaz’s Facebook page.

Mayoral candidate Nelson Diaz is proposing to scrap the School Reform Commission and replace it with a parent-led school board to make major decisions for the Philadelphia school district.

Diaz pitched the idea at a meeting of Pennsylvania House Democrats Monday at Warren G. Harding Middle School, NewsWorks reports. Read more »

Green Won’t Challenge Wolf’s SRC Decision

Bill Green, last week at district headquarters after Gov. Wolf removed him from SRC chairmanship.

Bill Green, last week at district headquarters after Gov. Wolf removed him from the SRC chairmanship.

Bill Green said this afternoon he will not mount a legal challenge to Gov. Wolf’s dismissal of him as chair of the School Reform Commission, saying he did not want to undermine support for the Philadelphia School District. But he said he still believes Wolf overstepped his authority in removing him from the chair and replacing him with fellow SRC member Marjorie Neff.

“Lawsuits can wait,” Green said in a press release. “Harmony needs to prevail.” Read more »

« Older Posts