Local Control for Philadelphia Schools?

For Philadelphia public schools, big changes may be coming, and very soon. Mayor Kenney has recently made a pitch for local control of Philadelphia schools. Currently, the School Reform Commission, or SRC, has the control over the majority of decisions involving Philly schools. This includes funding and budgets, school closings, curriculum, and much more. In addition to this, the SRC also holds the power to disband itself if seen fitting, by 3 of the 5 members voting against the committee.The SRC operates in Harrisburg, and has been the cause of much of the budget cuts and funding issues Philadelphia schools have faced over the past 16 years. Mayor Kenney has recently urged the SRC to disband itself and offers a loose plan of local control of public schools in Philadelphia. But what exactly would this plan look like?

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Mayor Kenney has offered a loose plan for local control, but we do not know much. The city would have to find a way to pay for the District's debts- around $103 million dollars in the next year and $1 billion dollars in the next 5 years. A plan for paying this deficit has not yet been confirmed. Kenney’s major goal is to work with a 13-member nominating panel, as well as State Secretary of Education Pedro A. Rivera, to appoint a nine member school board. The major goal of this school board as opposed to the SRC is the idea of much more cooperation between the schools and the city, and more collaboration going into the decisions that are being made. Although the funding for the schools is a major obstacle. Kenney says that many state officials will work together to find a solution, because the alternative is much worse. He says the city has to break the cycle of cutting funds and debt no matter the cost.

But how will this affect public school students? I believe local control will restore much power to Philadelphia residents and students. Having a local school board will give students a greater chance to vocalize their ideas and concerns, as well as a greater chance of being listened to. Local control means the decisions for our schools are being made by people who live in and care about the city of Philadelphia. Many students, teachers, and parents of public schools are excited and hopeful. Mollie Michel, a district parent, stated “A quality education is the cornerstone of a successful, productive life. My kids and all of Philadelphia’s children deserve the best educational opportunities from pre-K to high school. A return to local control under a Mayor-appointed board is the best chance our kids have to attend thriving schools and receive a top-notch education that will allow them to realize their dreams.” It sounds like the overwhelming majority of people whose lives are immersed in the Philadelphia School District are extremely happy about this plan, and are willing to go lengths to see it put into action.

Unfortunately, nobody has the power to disband the SRC except for the SRC itself. On Thursday, November 16, 2017, they will be making the final decision as to whether or not the SRC will be disbanded and local control will be restored to Philadelphia Schools.   

Thea Risher

Communications Associate