City Council will not put measure on SRC to voters

School Superintendent William R. Hite Jr, and SRC Chairman William Green Jr. listen to Vivian Rodriguez, left , a retied teacher, and Maria Cruz, SAC Team Program member, during an SRC meeting in May 2014. ( Steven M. Falk / Staff Photographer )

 

Gov. Corbett might not get the memo after all.

Despite 40,000 signatures on a petition from school reform advocates and a morning rally outside City Hall, Philadelphia City Council on Thursday killed an effort that would have asked the governor to dissolve the School Reform Commission.

In its first meeting since returning from summer recess, Council introduced a flurry of bills but also passed on some legislation left over from the spring term, including a resolution to put a question on the November ballot asking voters if they support abolishing the SRC and returning schools to local control.

The primary sponsor of the bill, Councilwoman Jannie L. Blackwell, said she did not think she had the two-thirds vote required to put the nonbinding resolution on the ballot.

"Their concerns were that if we didn't get the cigarette tax, they would have said it's because we introduced this. . . . They thought we should not create a controversy with the state," Blackwell said.

Many Council members, however, including President Darrell L. Clarke, said they supported the ballot measure.

Monday is the last day to file any questions for the November ballot, meaning Blackwell's hesitation on the resolution essentially killed it for this year.

Still, Blackwell said she is not done with the SRC.

"We're not giving up the issue," Blackwell said. "I could bring it back again in the spring, because then we won't have a funding crisis at that time, I hope."

The city cannot force an end to the SRC, which 13 years ago did away with the local Board of Education. The language in the school takeover law specifies that the only way for the SRC to be abolished is for the panel to vote itself out of existence.

At a Thursday morning rally outside City Hall, advocates of returning schools to local control said the goal of the ballot initiative was to send a message to Harrisburg that the SRC has not worked out to the benefit of Philadelphia schools.

Councilman Dennis O'Brien, a Republican, did not say he was against the SRC bill. But he said the focus now should be on getting the cigarette tax and a statewide school-funding formula.

The financially strapped Philadelphia School District is counting on a $2-per-pack cigarette tax to help balance its budget.

Republicans, who control the House and Senate, say the tax is high on the list of priorities, and legislative aides have said it is likely there will be an agreement fairly quickly.

The two chambers are expected to tackle the issue as soon as legislators return to the Capitol next week after their summer break.

Also Thursday, Clarke introduced legislation that would amend the city code to provide regulations, enforcement, and penalties for the use of propane or other combustible fuels on mobile food vehicles. The bill was in part inspired by the explosion of a food truck in June that fatally injured a mother and daughter working inside the vehicle.

And Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. introduced a bill that would beef up the Police Advisory Commission with more money, members, and power.

 


cvargas@phillynews.com

215-854-5520 @InqCVargas

Inquirer staff writer Angela Couloumbis contributed to this article.