by Diane Payne
August 24, 2017
Commissioners Bill Green, Estelle Richman, Chris McGinley and Farah Jimenez were present; Chair Joyce Wilkerson was absent, so Jimenez acted as Interim Chair. Eight members of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools (APPS) were present; six testified in defense of public education. [See APPSPhilly.net to view their testimony and read their transcripts.] APPS members continue to call out the waste of public tax dollars, the ongoing privatization of district resources and services, and the corporate policy agenda reflected in numerous resolutions that appear monthly on the SRC agenda.
The SRC voted on a total of 83 resolutions that set the priorities of the Hite administration. The commissioners spent money on district needs, much of that to private contractors. The 83 resolutions were voted on in only 4 blocks; one vote by Commissioners approved 42 resolutions. There was no discussion about the merits or worth of even a single resolution. All but two passed unanimously. This governmental body spends millions of tax dollars every month even though it is not accountable to the taxpayers of the city or the state. As a state-controlled body, it operates outside the system of checks and balances that is basic to our democratic system.
Our City Our Schools (OCOS): SRC Must Go
The OCOS coalition, of which APPS is a member, is publicly advocating for a return to local control of the School District of Philadelphia. In 2001, Harrisburg imposed the SRC governance structure on Philadelphia, stripping the city of local control of the city’s schools. The justification for this was the promise of increased financial stability and improved academics. Not only has the district achieved neither of these goals, it has been forced to operate under a “Doomsday Budget” as a result of budget cuts from Harrisburg. In the Trump/DeVos education agenda, public schools continue to find themselves under siege. Looming elections in 2020 create an uncertain future at both the state and city level.
The SRC can only be dissolved by our state legislature voting to abolish or the SRC commissioners voting at an SRC meeting to abolish. Should either of those things happen, it would still take another 180 days before the Secretary of Education (Pedro Rivera under Governor Tom Wolf) can approve the vote. That timeline pushes us to just before the next election. There is a sense of urgency around abolishing the SRC before this next election. Our children are living every day with the fallout from SRC spending priorities; our tax dollars are spent on questionable and unnecessary programs. Yet, out of 499 school districts in the Commonwealth, Philadelphia is the only school district with no form of local control! In the birthplace of American democracy, our voice is silenced.