By Joseph Batory
While Bill Green is desperately trying to regain his seat as chairperson of the the State-imposed School Reform Commission (SRC) overseeing the city’s public schools, there is a much bigger issue here.This politically appointed board, with three members named by the Governor and two by the Mayor, has been a colossal failure and it needs to be abolished. For more than a decade, the SRC has presided over an educational disaster in Philadelphia.
Given the priority goal of establishing better fiscal oversight for the schools in 2001, the SRC’s legacy has been perpetual budget crises which resulted in Philadelphia’s public schools have been stripped of many teachers, nurses, librarians, counselors as well as basic supplies. In terms of services to and opportunities for students, Philadelphia schools are running far behind their suburban counterparts. This is the legacy of the SRC. What sort of formula for public school success is this?
The SRC has regularly demonized the teachers union, limited parent, student and community voices, and promoted the expansion of the charter school sector by draining funds from the school district, while seeming to have no clue about the District’s fiscal problems.
The SRC’s policies have provoked broad and sustained opposition from the public over the last two years. On numerous occasions, parents, students, and educators have taken to the streets and to City Council and SRC meetings to register their dissent.
State Senator Mike Stack (D-Northeast Philadelphia) recently told the Philadelphia City Council Committee on Education: “The SRC fails the accountability and transparency test because it is not elected by the taxpayers. Therefore, it is not accountable to parents, students, and certainly not the taxpayers. Its members are only accountable to the Governor and/or Mayor who have appointed them.”
Helen Gym, co-founder of Parents United for Public Education, and recently elected to city council, offered this recent analysis: The SRC is “a body that has refused to commit to transparency,” she said. “SRC policy denies people an adequate opportunity to speak to the issues. It is a serious imposition on the public.”
Make no mistake about it. An elected school board is no panacea. However, the School Reform Commission has had its opportunity to create positive change for Philadelphia’s schools and failed miserably. Tragically, Philadelphia’s public school children have been and continue to be victims of this political abuse and neglect. The School Reform Commission needs to be abolished.