Philadelphia’s five-decade long practice of appointing people to oversee the city’s school system has failed, charges State Sen. Mike Stack (D-Northeast), who is now calling for Philadelphians to elect school-board members. His SB 913 would return a locally elected school board to Philadelphia.
“Each reiteration of the Board of Education was supposed to increase accountability, transparency, and improve fiscal oversight. Instead, we have had year after year of dysfunction, fiscal crises, and schools that fail our students,” Stack told the Philadelphia City Council Committee on Education recently.
Stack said the School Reform Commission needs drastic reform itself.
“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. It is only accountable to the Governor or Mayor who appoints them,” Stack said.
Stack said the evidence is overwhelming for filling the city’s school system with publicly elected directors – the district’s failure in 2011-2012 to reach target graduation rates and overall academic performance to its crippling deficit.
“The school board would be unpaid, nonpartisan, and locally elected from nine districts throughout the city,” Stack explained. “Every 10 years, the districts would change based on the census. Members of the school board would serve four-year terms.”
Stack said he believes replacing the SRC with a publicly elected school board would get people to the table in the Philadelphia School District who truly care about public education.
If adopted, the Senator said Philly’s Mayor and City Council would still play a significant role.
“The Mayor will appoint the School District Superintendent,” Stack said. “The Mayor would also be able to fire the Superintendent at any time and for any reason that does not violate state law.”
Additionally, Stack said the elected school board would be allowed to pass a resolution of no confidence on the Superintendent. The Mayor, however, would decide if that resolution would be fulfilled.
Taxing authority and the ability to incur debt would continue as powers of City Council and the Mayor only, under the legislative proposal. However, the school board would be required to write an annual budget plus a five-year spending plan.
Furthermore, the board would have the authority to approve labor, service and other contracts.