School Reform Commission Could Vote to End Itself by 2018

The move, if eventually approved, would bring control of the school district back to Philadelphia.

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Photo | Jeff Fusco

The contentious debate over the School Reform Commission’s existence took a major turn on Thursday night.

At a heated board meeting, SRC chairwoman Joyce Wilkerson simply laid out a possibility: The SRC could disband itself by the end of the year.

Her statement was met by applause from teachers, parents, and others who have called for the commission’s end for years. 

The School District of Philadelphia’s interim general counsel, Miles Shore, outlined the steps the commission would need to take it end itself – including approval votes from a majority of the commission’s five members, followed by a formal declaration dissolving the commission from the state’s Secretary of Education, Pedro Rivera, by January 1st.

If that were to happen, the SRC would end on June 30, 2018.

It’s not clear where the commission will go from here – Wilkerson called Shore’s presentation “purely informational,” but said that the committee was engaged in discussions with the city and state about its future.

The SRC, which was created in 2001, consists of three members nominated by the governor and two appointed by the mayor. Ending the commission would effectively localize control of the school district by paving the way for a new nine-member Board of School Directors, selected entirely by the mayor.

It’s a move that Gov. Tom Wolf supports. Mayor Jim Kenney, on the other hand, has yet to commit one way or the other.

Those opposed to the commission say it has failed to secure stable funding to the school district and effectively prompted charter school expansion. Those who say the school district should keep the commission (only 11 percent of Philadelphians, according to a Pew study) say dissolving it would further weaken relations between the district and the state – which could potentially result in fewer resources from the Commonwealth.

Follow @ClaireSasko on Twitter.