Council committee wants local school board to make school district decisions

DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER The bill would allow a question on the November ballot asking voters whether the School Reform Commission - led by Bill Green - should be eliminated through an amendment to the city charter.
DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER The bill would allow a question on the November ballot asking voters whether the School Reform Commission - led by Bill Green - should be eliminated through an amendment to the city charter.
Posted: June 20, 2014

A BILL THAT barely moved out of a City Council committee yesterday calls for the abolition of the School Reform Commission, but its passage teetered on the brink because of its purely symbolic nature.

Council's Committee on Law and Government moved the bill - with "no recommendation" for passage. If adopted by the full Council, the bill would allow a question on the November ballot asking voters whether the SRC should be eliminated through an amendment to the city charter. Although the state has ultimate authority over the School District of Philadelphia, Council wants to turn up the pressure on state lawmakers to return local control of Philly schools.

"I've stated my concerns about this bill, but I still have concerns about continuing to put nonbinding amendments into the city charter," Councilman Bill Greenlee said.

"I want it noted for the record that moving this forward for me does not assume I'll be voting for it in September. I'm still weighing that."

Nearly 40,000 signatures and countless witness testimonials support the bill, introduced by Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell. The majority of Council members agree that it sends a strong message to the governor and the General Assembly that Philadelphia wants control of its schools back.

Ellen Kaplan, vice president and policy director for the good-government watchdog group Committee of Seventy, urged the committee not to pass the measure. She said a ballot question on a charter change has no impact on whether the SRC stays or goes.

"To clog up the charter with nonbinding expressions of the sentiments of Philadelphia is not the purpose of the charter," she said.

"Philadelphians should not be deluded into believing that the ballot question has significance other than sending a message to Harrisburg - a message that has already been heard loud and clear."


On Twitter: @RuffTuffDH

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