The members of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools call upon Mayor Kenney, Governor Wolf and the PA Senate to use this opportunity, brought about by the resignation of two members of the School Reform Commission, to create a transparent process for selection of their replacements. To be clear: the ultimate outcome for Philadelphia’s school governance should be a democratically elected school board. However, we must begin by advocating for citizen voice in the process of selecting those who are entrusted to represent the best interests of the public on the SRC.
The SRC, a governmental body that controls a $2.6 billion annual budget, has a responsibility to make decisions in the best interests of the children of Philadelphia. To date, those decisions have included: closing twenty-three neighborhood schools; privatizing and outsourcing personnel and services, resulting in the Source4Teachers substitute debacle; opening more charter schools at the expense of district schools, and the facilitation of charter companies effectively creating their own districts in some neighborhoods; the illegal cancellation of its contract with PFT members, and its failure over the last four years to negotiate in good faith for a new contract; an inordinate amount spent on lawyer fees to outside firms; failure to protect the interests of stakeholders and taxpayers by ignoring and delaying its own Charter School Office recommendations to close poorly performing charter schools; admitted backdoor negotiations between charter companies and SRC commissioners; and the SRC’s latest message of contempt for the public—openly manipulating vote outcomes to protect the interests of charter companies.
It is crucial that both the mayor and the governor honor the promises they made to their constituents to eliminate this failed imposition of state control on the people of Philadelphia. The opportunity to fulfill those commitments is now on their doorsteps!
APPS also renews its request, made last year, that Farah Jimenez step down from the SRC. Ms. Jimenez’s ability to fully participate in SRC decisions is compromised by the many conflicts created by her employment in an education advocacy organization and by her husband’s employment in a legal firm which represents a number of charter companies. It is clear that her role on the SRC is not to conduct the people’s business but to ensure that crucial issues, most notably charter renewals, are postponed indefinitely.
Unfortunately, Mayor Kenney has stated that he will not take steps to bring local control back to the district, saying “now is not the time”. He repeats the argument that Philadelphia may lose funding if we are not controlled by the state, ignoring the fact that funding is not contingent on continued acquiescence to state control. Philadelphia’s schools have not been adequately funded since the state takeover. The Mayor is well aware that the SRC did nothing to protect us from the devastating cuts under the Corbett administration. The Mayor’s justifications are simply part of the smokescreen which hides the true reason: that Philadelphians are the only Pennsylvanians who are disenfranchised when it comes to making decisions about their schools and their communities. The time to be Philadelphia has been treated as a colony of Harrisburg for too long. Fifteen years of state control and imposed governance has clearly resulted in a seriously damaged school system.