Will Local Control of Schools Return to Philly?

Will Local Control of Schools Return to Philly?

In 2001 the General Assembly passed legislation that was signed into law in October of that year creating an appointed School Reform Commission to administer the School District of the City of Philadelphia, the largest district (measured by enrollment) in the state.  The Public School Code divides school districts into classes based on the population of the district, and all districts with the exception of Philadelphia are administered by school boards of nine elected members serving staggered four year terms (see page 6 of this report).

The future of the School Reform Commission could be affected today at the Commission’s meeting.  Included on its agenda is a “proposed dissolution of the School Reform Commission”.  The statute creating the Commission states that “The Secretary of Education, only upon the recommendation of a majority of the School Reform Commission, may issue a declaration to dissolve the School Reform Commission. The dissolution declaration shall be issued at least one hundred eighty (180) days prior to the end of the current school year and shall be effective at the end of that school year. Except as otherwise provided in this section, after dissolution the board of school directors shall have the powers and duties of the School Reform Commission.”

The current makeup of the Commission is three gubernatorial appointees and two mayor appointees.  Based on media reports (here, here ,here and here) if the Commission votes to dissolve and the Secretary of Education issues the declaration, the Commission would be not become an elected board but would be a City-appointed board with the Mayor making appointments and the City Council having approval power under a the proposed transition.

Presumably Philadelphia would still be “in distress” whether or not the Commission votes to dissolve by language in the School Code that applies only to school districts of the first class.  A separate provision in the school code on financial recovery applies to all other classes of school districts.