Bill Green: I’m Taking Tom Wolf to Court Over SRC Ouster
Update: Governor Tom Wolf has responded to Bill Green’s claims that he lacked the authority to unseat him as chair of the SRC. A statement issued by his spokesman Jeffrey Sheridan reads:
“Governor Wolf used his authority, as provided by statute, to appoint the chair of the School Reform Commission and to bring new leadership to the school district, which has been devastated by education cuts. Even now, after the governor has fought for greater investment in education at all levels and started to restore the funding Philadelphia lost, the district is in dire financial straits and our children are at a disadvantage. Due to misguided and poor decisions made by Harrisburg politicians, the district has been forced to lay off educators, cut important programs and slash transportation, security and other vital services. Governor Wolf will continue fighting for more funding for education and to provide a new path forward for Philadelphia’s schools.”
Earlier: Last spring, after the School Reform Commission he chaired had approved five new charter schools in Philadelphia, Bill Green was removed from his role as chair by Governor Tom Wolf and replaced with fellow commissioner Marjorie Neff.
Wolf was said to not want any new charter schools approved. Neff had voted against the new charter applications. At the time, Green, a former Philadelphia City Councilman, had said he planned to challenge the governor’s authority to make such a move. Then some time passed, and that challenge never came. Fast forward one year, and Green, in an oped in today’s Inquirer, says his challenge is coming now.
“People I respect, including teachers, colleagues, and citizens, urged me to give the new governor a chance, fearing a lawsuit at that time might exacerbate tensions in Harrisburg and risk the funding that Philadelphia’s public school students urgently need. I agreed not to go to court at that time,” writes Green this morning. “In the year since, it has become painfully clear that the governor’s strategies, tactics, and unwillingness to compromise have not been successful.”
Green is no doubt referring to Wolf’s protracted battle with the state legislature over an ambitious budget that left many of the governor’s supporters — particularly school advocates — disappointed when the Republican-led state House and Senate ultimately passed a budget that did not include increased school funding.
Green is asking the Commonwealth Court to rule simply on whether the governor has the authority to remove Green from the office of chair, which he says can only be done with “proof of wrongdoing in writing.” He cites the court’s ruling on Wolf’s attempt to remove the state’s Open Records chief, who had been appointed by Wolf’s predecessor, Tom Corbett, shortly before leaving office.
Green says that his action is not meant to disrupt the SRC, but rather to provide continuity to schools superintendent William Hite, as current chair Neff’s term on the commission expires at the end of January 2017.
Green is expected to announced his legal challenge at a press conference at School District headquarters today at 11 a.m.