Mayoral Q&A: Schools, Part 2: Governance and choice
Philadelphia voters will go to the polls to select the major-party candidates for mayor May 19. With that in mind, the Inquirer Editorial Board posed seven questions on the issues that will face the city’s next mayor. Responses from candidates — except for Milton Street, whose campaign did not respond to invitations to participate — will be published daily through Friday, with the final one next Sunday.
Schools, Part 2: Governance
Would you push to eliminate the School Reform Commission? If so, replace with appointed or elected school board? Should the mayor be responsible for city schools?
Click on each candidate to see what they have to say.
Tap on each candidate to see what they have to say.
“I envision a school board that has a superintendent appointed by the mayor, and a hybrid board structure comprised of both elected and appointed members.
“The SRC should remain intact until the next mayor has an opportunity to consult with Gov. Wolf to determine two things:
What are the governor’s plans for determining a fair funding formula — or equal “per-student allotment” — for all Pennsylvania children?
What will the governor need from Philadelphia in order to ensure that this fair funding formula is achieved? It’s possible that the Legislature may require the continued existence of the SRC in exchange for funding.
Following SRC’s eventual exit, I envision a school board that has a superintendent appointed by the mayor, and a hybrid board structure comprised of both elected and appointed members. To get the structure right, I would convene a committee of experts to recommend board structure, member qualifications, and proper checks and balances.”
“Based on my experiences in public service, I do not support an elected school board.
“I believe in mayoral control of all public schools, and a board comprised of leading educators and parents with a stake in the future of the School District of Philadelphia. Based on my experiences in public service, I do not support an elected school board.
We certainly need more robust charter school governance and oversight as well. The School District charter school office has eight staff members to oversee 90 charters, and lacks the capacity to handle the influx of new charter applications.
I recently called for strengthening accountability and transparency under the law for charter schools, examining cost savings to effectively staff oversight activities, requiring annual reports and financial assessments, and clarifying the law’s vague language that led to lengthy and expensive legal challenges.
If we don’t make these changes, we will continue to see crises and sudden school closures, like the Walter D. Palmer charter school debacle, which left Philadelphians unemployed, and the School District and parents scrambling to find a place to provide children with a thorough and efficient education, a right guaranteed by Pennsylvania’s constitution.”
“I do not believe that the SRC should be eliminated.
“I do not believe that the SRC should be eliminated. However, after decades of failing Philadelphia students, it is evident that a shift must be made in the role of the SRC.
Initially, I believe the mayor should appoint three SRC board members, while the governor should appoint the remaining two. This would enable lines of accountability to be maintained with the city and state and aligns the interests of the superintendent and the governing authority.
Most importantly, I believe the SRC should function as a regulator rather than as an operator. The SRC’s core responsibility should be clear and unequivocal: Ensure that no school in Philadelphia — public or charter — is ineffective and enforce change when needed.”
“Being mayor of a big city like Philadelphia means being in charge and knowing how to manage effectively. I’m the only candidate in this race with significant executive experience.
“I would eliminate the SRC and replace it with an appointed school board accountable to the mayor for one simple reason: What we’re doing isn’t working, and I want to be responsible for fixing things.
There is nothing more important to our future than our children’s education. The mayor should be in charge of making sure our schools are educating every child.
People act as if eliminating the SRC is impossible. It isn’t. The governor and I can simply appoint members who will vote to disband the body. People also act as though Harrisburg won’t increase school funding if we disband the SRC — but the existence of the SRC didn’t stop Gov. Corbett and the Republican legislature from slashing school funding to begin with. The SRC isn’t effective, and after 13 years of deepening dysfunction it’s time for it to go.
My entire career, people have been telling me that the bold ideas and big proposals I favored couldn’t possibly happen. I’ve made a habit of proving them wrong. Whether it was reforming our courts, reforming public housing nationally, or just making it out of Harlem and into college and law school in the first place, I haven’t taken no for an answer, and I’m not about to start now.
That’s the kind of attitude we need in our next mayor. Without an empowered executive in charge, our city can’t function the way it’s supposed to. Being mayor of a big city like Philadelphia means being in charge and knowing how to manage effectively. I’m the only candidate in this race with significant executive experience. It’s one thing to have ideas about what you’d like to change, but it’s something else entirely to actually wrangle the city bureaucracy and achieve those goals.”