Nutter's criticism of Green could be sign of things to come

ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Gov. Corbett's selection of Bill Green (left) as SRC chair was announced yesterday.
ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Gov. Corbett's selection of Bill Green (left) as SRC chair was announced yesterday.
Posted: January 19, 2014

FOR THE CHAIRMAN of the School Reform Commission, being criticized is part of the job.

A big part.

Although he doesn't have the job yet, Councilman Bill Green learned that lesson quickly yesterday.

During the morning, Gov. Corbett announced that he would be appointing Green to the post. By afternoon, Green was taking barbs from none other than Mayor Nutter, who held a news conference to air his concerns.

"During the past few years, the councilman has actually voted against some measures to provide funding for educating our children," said Nutter, who appoints two of the five SRC members. Nutter said he is concerned about Green's "general lack of support in many instances, based on public statements, about whether or not the district actually needs money or not, or should just go on continuing to cut its way out of its deficit."

The mayor's comments are the beginning of what could be a contentious period for the SRC if the state Senate confirms the nomination of Green, who has a forceful style and has supported controversial policies like school vouchers.

Green said last night that he was disappointed in Nutter's comments but that he was confident they could work together.

"We've had policy disagreements over the years. . . . This should be about the future," Green said.

In response to Nutter's criticism of his not voting for school-funding measures, Green said he had voted against measures that he thought would "make our economy worse or kill jobs."

Nutter's comments surprised some City Hall observers because he is typically diplomatic when discussing other officials, even those he is battling behind closed doors.

But Green and the mayor have a history of open dispute. Green was a Council freshman when Nutter took over the Mayor's Office, and he made a name for himself as an aggressive critic of the administration.

Nutter specifically called on Green to join the mayor's push for a new statewide education-funding formula that provides more money to the School District of Philadelphia.

Green, at a news conference yesterday, said he blames federal funding deficiencies, not state funding cuts, for the enormous structural deficit facing the district.

"It is clear what the crisis comes from: a lack of federal funding, and from frankly unfortunately a wasting of the federal funding that we had," said Green, referring to stimulus funding under former Gov. Ed Rendell's administration that has since dried up.

Philadelphia NAACP president J. Whyatt Mondesire, who has been an advocate for school funding, said he is "prepared to live with" Green's nomination.

"He is the best of probably what we can expect to come out of Corbett," Mondesire said. "At least he's a Democrat, and he's local. . . . Until we see something really horrible out of him, we'll give him a shot."

Mondesire said he met with Green and expressed concerns about the councilman's past statements in support of vouchers. Green, according to Mondesire, said he now supports them only in limited circumstances.

Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, did not comment specifically on Green or his positions.

"My thoughts about Bill Green's appointment are the same as they were for other chairs of the School Reform Commission," Jordan said. "I hope that if he's confirmed, he will certainly help to restore many of the cuts that have been made to our classrooms and our schools."

The district and the PFT have been unable to reach a contract agreement since the beginning of the school year. Under the state law that created it, the SRC has the power to impose contract terms during an impasse - a controversial provision that if used would draw intense criticism from the PFT and others.

Asked yesterday for his thoughts on that tactic, Green said: "The SRC has broad powers to do what it needs to do to provide a quality education for our children, and it should use all of those powers that it has to ensure that it is doing the best it can."

On Twitter: @SeanWalshDN


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