by Diane Payne
May 9, 2017
This special meeting of the School Reform Commission was announced in a press release sent out Monday April 24. The school district’s official notice was not published in the newspaper until Wednesday April 26. Those who wished to speak had to sign up by Friday. The sole purpose of the meeting was to vote on charter renewals and amendments for 26 schools. The day after giving notice of this meeting, an article appeared in the Notebook giving the public some information on the schools up for renewal. Because of that article, the public did have some information on the performance of these schools.
For the past year, the district has violated the PA Sunshine Act by failing to post or distribute the full resolutions on charter applications, renewals and amendments. The SRC has given no explanation for this change in practice except to designate these actions “quasi-judicial”. APPS has asked for an official explanation of this legal term and why it now applies to all charter matters. The district has not provided this, despite their many promises to be transparent. District Chief Financial Officer Uri Monson has stated at every budget hearing that charters are the single biggest driver of increased district costs. The SRC has a legal obligation to inform the public of all matters, especially those that are diverting so much from funding public schools.
APPS continues to monitor the district’s adherence to the PA Sunshine Act, which was enacted in order to ensure that the public can know what its government is doing and have an opportunity to speak about it. The SRC violates not only the Sunshine Act, but the court-ordered settlement between the SRC and APPS. We are challenging their practice of only announcing the topic before the vote, then publishing a full resolution in a revised Resolution Summary after the meeting. No governmental body is permitted to report false information about its public proceedings.
SRC Position Remains Unfilled
Present for this meeting were Chair Joyce Wilkerson and Commissioners Farah Jimenez, Bill Green and Chris McGinley. The State Senate still has not confirmed Governor Wolf appointee Estelle Richman. State legislators, most recently House Speaker Michael Turzai, are quick to meddle in the school district’s business, making false statements about legal conditions which charters must follow, yet they fail to do their own job of holding a senate confirmation hearing—as well as a failing to fully and fairly fund our district and others across the state.