Leadership Symposium: Early Bird Pricing Ends March 24 | Register Now
School & District Management

Debating State Control

By Catherine Gewertz — September 12, 2005 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Nearly four years ago, the Philadelphia schools were in such crisis that they were taken over by the state. Now comes the question: Is it time for the state to give them back?

Philadelphia Mayor John F. Street suggested last month that it could be time to talk about whether Pennsylvania should turn control of the school district back to the city. He noted that its test scores have been on the rise for several years, and that it’s on stronger fiscal ground.

One city councilman agreed that the schools should revert to local control within the next couple of years. But Mr. Street’s idea didn’t draw broad support.

State Rep. Dwight Evans, a Democrat from Philadelphia who helped write the 2001 takeover law, said the “partnership” between the state and the 205,000-student district—an arrangement that channels extra aid to the schools—is improving the district, so it should be left in place for a while longer.

“If it’s not broken, why mess with it?” Mr. Evans said in a telephone interview last week. “We’ve been arguing about the wrong things. It’s not about who controls [the schools]. It’s about what works for kids.”

Speaker of the House John M. Perzel and Senate Majority Whip Jeffrey E. Piccola, both Republicans, and Paul G. Vallas, the chief executive officer of the district, all told The Philadelphia Inquirer that it would be a mistake for control of the schools to revert to the city now.

Mayor Street’s spokesman told the Inquirer that the mayor had intended only to suggest that it might be time to begin discussion about an “eventual” changeover to local control.

Gov. Edward G. Rendell, a fellow Democrat and former Philadelphia mayor, doesn’t think it’s time for a change just yet. He pointed to the most recently released round of Pennsylvania test scores, showing Philadelphia students scoring higher in mathematics and reading for a fourth consecutive year.

Rep. Evans, while touting the gains, pointed out that most Philadelphia students still score below the proficient level on the state tests. That is another reason, he said, to stay with the current governance arrangement.

Since December 2001, Philadelphia’s schools have been governed by a five-member School Reform Commission. Two of its appointees were chosen by Mayor Street, and three by then-Gov. Mark S. Schweiker, a Republican. Under the arrangement, the commission has pursued a “multiple provider” approach to school improvement.

A version of this article appeared in the September 14, 2005 edition of Education Week


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Recruitment & Retention Webinar
Exploring Staff Shortage Impact on Education
Learn about the impact of staff shortages, changing roles of educators, and how technology supports teachers & students.
Content provided by Promethean
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Assessment Webinar
Improving Outcomes on State Assessments with Data-Driven Strategies
State testing is around the corner! Join us as we discuss how teachers can use formative data to drive improved outcomes on state assessments.
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Classroom Strategies for Building Equity and Student Confidence
Shape equity, confidence, and success for your middle school students. Join the discussion and Q&A for proven strategies.
Content provided by Project Lead The Way

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management MAP: Where School Employees Can and Can't Strike
See which states do and don't allow public school employees to go on strike.
2 min read
Amy Chapman and her daughter, first grader Corinne Anderson, pose for a photo while they support teachers on strike outside Whetstone High School in Columbus, Ohio, on Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022.
Amy Chapman and her daughter, 1st grader Corinne Anderson, show support for teachers on strike outside Whetstone High School in Columbus, Ohio, on Aug. 24, 2022.
Samantha Hendrickson/AP
School & District Management Opinion How to Build a More Effective School Board
Board members are well-intentioned, but they've been mis-trained into focusing on adult inputs rather than student needs.
5 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
School & District Management What's Behind Texas' Takeover of Houston Schools
State takeovers of districts began in the 1980s but have waned recently following limited evidence of academic benefit.
5 min read
People stand in a row outside while holding signs that say "stop takeover," "hands off our schools," and "no HISD take over."
People hold up signs at a March news conference in Houston while protesting the planned takeover of the city's school district by the Texas Education Agency.
Juan A. Lozano/AP
School & District Management Superintendents' Salaries and Their Plans for Next Year, in Charts
A new survey offers a glimpse into the state of the superintendency, as some reports suggest turnover is on the rise.
1 min read
Close up of Benjamin Franklin's face on the one hundred dollar bill peeking out from behind a white curled up paper
iStock/Getty Images Plus