Friday, April 18, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Nutter changes his mind on accountability measures. Good!

On Thursday, we asked the administration whether it supported any "accountability measures" as a condition for giving the School District additional city funding -- basically, whether it wanted to attach any strings to the money that would give the city more control over the schools. The administration said no, not right now.

Nutter changes his mind on accountability measures. Good!

Mayor Nutter (left) is seeking extensive school district financial and program information in exchange for city funding. He sent a letter to Superintendent Arlene Ackerman (center), and members of the School Reform Commission, including chairman Robert Archie Jr. (right).
Mayor Nutter (left) is seeking extensive school district financial and program information in exchange for city funding. He sent a letter to Superintendent Arlene Ackerman (center), and members of the School Reform Commission, including chairman Robert Archie Jr. (right).

On Thursday, we asked the administration whether it supported any "accountability measures" as a condition for giving the School District additional city funding -- basically, whether it wanted to attach any strings to the money that would give the city more control over the schools. The administration said no, not right now.

Today's Daily News editorial and Phil Goldmsith's "Gold Standard" column both make the case for why such controls matter. Says the DN:

Further financial support from the city is not a gift - it should be earned. The district can begin earning our support with a willingness to be more transparent, and to start acting like an equal partner.

 Otherwise, the district will have to answer the ultimate question: why taxpayers should bother helping out at all.

Well, we learn this morning that Nutter does want to attach several accountability measures to additional district money:

In a letter addressed to the School Reform Commission and Superintendent Arlene Ackerman, Nutter told SRC and district officials that he expects not only to meet with senior staff on a monthly basis, but also to receive information including a list of vendor contracts, district facilities, and nonunion and instructional staff making $90,000 or more; performance evaluations of reform programs; recent audits and other financial statements.

This development probably has something to do with Friday's announcement by Ackerman that the District has found a way to pay for full-day kindergarten without the city's help -- an announcement that the mayor was only informed about an hour beforehand, despite the fact that he's climbed out on a shaky political limb to help the schools.

The bad news here is it may have taken a political betrayal to get the mayor on board with accountability measures, which are pretty clearly a good idea for the school district given its recent fiscal misadventures. The good news -- and it outweighs the bad news, we think -- is the mayor is in fact now on board with accountability measures. We'll watch to see how this plays out, including whether this is enough and what the city learns about the district from the information it's requesting. But for now, a step in the right direction. Good!

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Every year, city government spends slightly more than $4 billion. Where does all that money come from? More importantly, where does it go? Are we getting the most bang for our tax buck? “It's Our Money” is a joint project between Philadelphia Daily News and WHYY, funded by the William Penn Foundation, designed to answer these questions.

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