Accountability Democracy Education Reform Failure Philadelphia

Joseph Batory: Time to Abolish State Control of Philadelphia’s Schools

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Joseph Batory, former superintendent of public schools in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, says it is time to abolish the School Reform Commission that has governed Philadelphia’s public schools since 2001. It has presided over the destruction of public education. Having failed, it is time to replace it with an elected board. At least, it will be accountable to the public. It can’t be worse than the SRC!


Batory writes:


“It is clearly time for Philadelphia to rid itself of the State-imposed School Reform Commission (SRC) overseeing the city’s public schools. This politically appointed board, with three members appointed by the Governor and two by the Mayor, has been a colossal failure. The SRC has presided over an educational disaster in Philadelphia.


“Given the priority goal of establishing better fiscal oversight for the schools in 2001, the SRC’s legacy has been perpetual budget deficits in spite of the fact that Philadelphia’s public schools have been stripped of many teachers, nurses, librarians, counselors as well as basic supplies. Incredibly, a 12-year-old child died because she dared to have an asthma attack on a day when the school did not have a nurse. In terms of services to and opportunities for students, Philadelphia schools are running far behind their suburban counterparts. What sort of formula for public school success is this?


“The SRC has regularly has demonized the teachers union, limited parent, student and community voices, and promoted the expansion of the charter school sector, despite the fact that these actions have only worsened the District’s fiscal problems.


“On top of all of this, the Boston Consulting Group was paid more than $2 million by the William Penn Foundation via an incestuous relationship with the SRC to create a biased “Blueprint for Reform.” This plan laid out a five year course of privatization which would close one-fourth of Philadelphia’s schools, placing 40% of students into charters, and dividing up the remaining schools into NYC-inspired “achievement networks” run by third party operators (editor’s note: they were unsuccessful in NYC).


“The SRC’s two most famous CEO/Superintendent appointments were little more than “top down” dictators rather than “enablers” who demeaned principals and teachers, robotized teaching, and produced minimal school improvements at best. Yet each of them was well rewarded with generous salaries, including a $65,000.00 bonus in just one year to one of them on top of her annual salary.


“The SRC’s policies have provoked broad and sustained opposition from the public over the last two years. On numerous occasions, parents, students, and educators have taken to the streets and to City Council and SRC meetings to register their dissent.


“Thankfully, at least one State Senator is trying to do something. Senator Mike Stack (D-Northeast), is now calling for Philadelphians to elect school-board members. His proposed Senate Bill would return a locally elected school board to Philadelphia.

“Stack told the Philadelphia City Council Committee on Education recently. “The SRC fails the accountability and transparency test because it is not elected by the taxpayers. Therefore, it is not accountable to parents, students, and certainly not the taxpayers. It is only accountable to the Governor or Mayor who have appointed them.”


“Helen Gym, co-founder of Parents United for Public Education agrees. The SRC is “a body that has refused to commit to transparency,” she said. “SRC policy denies people an adequate opportunity to speak to the issues. It is a serious imposition on the public.”

“Make no mistake about it. An elected school board is no panacea. However, the School Reform Commission has had its opportunity to create positive change for Philadelphia’s schools and failed miserably. Tragically, Philadelphia’s public school children have been and continue to be victims of this political abuse and neglect. The School Reform Commission needs to be abolished.”



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