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School & District Management

Is a Local School Board in Philadelphia’s Future?

By Denisa R. Superville — October 28, 2015 1 min read
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Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter is recommending that the city’s School Reform Commission, the appointed body that has overseen the city’s schools for 15 years, be replaced by a board of education that would be selected by city officials.

In an education policy speech Tuesday, Nutter said that the time had come for “the experiment to end,” according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The five-member School Reform Commission, made up of individuals appointed by the mayor and the governor of Pennsylvania, has been on the receiving end of a significant amount of criticism from parents and activists, who often call for abolishing the body during thorny debates, including on how to spend scarce dollars and expanding charter schools.

In May, primary election voters approved a non-binding ballot question calling for an end to the School Reform Commission.

“Returning to local control means the voters of this city know who to hold accountable for educational outcomes,” the paper quotes the mayor as saying.

But Nutter’s recommendation to replace the SRC wouldn’t return power directly to the voters, either. His proposal calls for a board of education, made up of nine members. Five would be picked by the mayor; the other four would be chosen from a pool of individuals submitted by the City Council, according to the Associated Press.

To achieve Nutter’s goals, the commission must vote to dissolve itself, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. The state legislature could also amend the law that created the commission, according to the paper.

Nutter’s term ends in January, so any return to local control is unlikely to happen on his watch. He says the plan could go into effect by September 2018, following a series of public discussions.

District officials indicated that while returning to local control was important, adequate funding for the perennially cash-strapped district was more of an immediate priority.

“Without addressing that issue, it actually doesn’t matter what the governance structure looks like,” Superintendent William Hite told the Inquirer.

The Philadelphia Inquirer also has a good roundup of the how Philadelphia schools did during Nutter’s tenure.

A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.