What's holding up Wolf's nomination of Estelle Richman to SRC?

Former state Department of Public Welfare secretary Estelle Richman is still waiting for Gov. Wolf to nominate her to an open seat on the Philadelphia School Reform Commission.

In mid-October, Gov. Wolf promised to nominate former state welfare secretary Estelle B. Richman to an open seat on the Philadelphia School Reform Commission.

More than two months later, he still has not done so. Is it a technicality, or politics?

One person stumped by the situation is Richman, a widely respected former local, state, and federal public servant.

"It doesn't seem to me that there's any urgency," Richman said.

Richman, 73, would occupy a seat on the five-person commission vacated Oct. 14 by the resignation of Feather Houstoun. Gubernatorial SRC picks must be confirmed by the state Senate, which is not generally warm to Wolf's wishes.

J.J. Abbott, the governor's spokesman, said that Richman - who is also a former senior official at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development - was still the pick. Richman also has served as Philadelphia's managing director and as its health commissioner.

"The governor does plan to nominate Estelle to the open spot, for the full term," Abbott said. "They expect that to be sent to the Senate in the next few weeks."

An administration source said the delay was tactical. Houstoun resigned in advance of her term's Jan. 18 expiration, and if Richman's name had been submitted in October, when she agreed to serve, that would have meant two confirmations - one for the unexpired term, and another for a full five-year term.

It also would have meant giving the Senate two opportunities to hold up Richman's confirmation.

It appears likely that Richman's name will be sent to the Senate on Jan. 19, she said. That would give the Senate 10 calendar days to act on a confirmation.

The administration, the source said, is eager to have Richman seated by February, when the commission is scheduled to consider applications for new charter schools, always a flash point in Philadelphia.

Richman's vote could be crucial. Commissioners Bill Green and Farah Jimenez have been more open to some new charters, and Wolf has said the Philadelphia School District cannot afford them.

Harrisburg Republicans have advocated for many more new charters in the city, saying families need more school choices.

House leaders, who know Richman from her time as public welfare secretary under Gov. Ed Rendell, have said that any new SRC member must be open to charters.

Richman, whose daughter is a public-school educator in the Philadelphia suburbs, has said she supports both school choice and adequately funded public schools.

She said that she had been updated Wednesday morning on the administration's plans and that she has concerns about the timetable.

"You're going to have three of us who are brand-new making such critical decisions about something that has so much priority for the children and families of Philadelphia," she said. "I don't think this is their number-one priority."

Chair Joyce Wilkerson, who was appointed to the SRC by Mayor Kenney and named chair by Wolf, has been in the job for only a month. Commissioner Sylvia Simms' term expires next week, and Kenney is expected to name her replacement shortly.

"I guess I'm of the school who always thinks things need to move faster," Richman said, "that there needs to be more urgency."

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