SRC You Later, Part I

The Pottery Barn Rule

(Photo Left) Regardless of who broke the schools first, with SRC's departure, it's up to the city to make it work now.

Wilson Goode didn’t have the political clout to deal with it. Ed Rendell had the political clout and the economic surge to deal with it but chose not to. John Street focused on neighborhood real estate hoping to bootstrap the problem through revitalization to no avail. Nutter had a collapsing economy, spending most of his time plugging holes in the budget dyke.

Jim Kenney and Darrell Clarke have now decided to take it on, invoking the Pottery Barn Rule: you break it, you own it. 

“Again and again, we’ve told the people of Philadelphia that the state of their schools are someone else’s responsibility. That ends today. When the SRC dissolves itself and we return to a school board appointed by the Mayor, you can hold me, and future mayors, accountable for the success or failure of our schools.”

The SRC, heeding the call, did just that, voting to dissolve itself, thus marking the beginning of the end of a nearly 20-year state takeover of our school district.  As philly.com reported: “The SRC will not be officially dissolved until the state education secretary signs off, and even then won’t cease to exist until June 30, 2018, when a nine-member local board appointed by Mayor Kenney will replace it.” But make no mistake, the end is near … at least for now.

To understand the forces behind the SRC dissolution, it is helpful to understand how the SRC came about in the first place. As the notebook.org recounts.

“In April 1998, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed Act 46, allowing the state to establish a School Reform Commission to run the School District of Philadelphia. The SRC was allowed to hire a CEO, establish a plan for school reform, reconstitute underperforming schools, hire and fire staff, and contract with outside managers to run schools. In 2000, with the District projecting a $204 million deficit, an increasingly impatient state stepped up preparations to take over the District, hiring a search firm to find a chief executive officer. The state and city negotiated a temporary deal to keep the schools open, but that still left an $80 million shortfall, and, as a condition of getting the money, Gov. Tom Ridge demanded that the city stop pursuing a federal anti-discrimination lawsuit over funding. The teachers' union threatened to strike when its contract expired at the end of August … Under Act 46, strikes were forbidden.”

The SRC was a direct attack on the teachers union, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. It was a means by which a Republican governor could hold a gun to city politicians in the form of an $80 million infusion to open the schools; an extortionist demand to change work rules, take away the right to strike, and open the doors to the privatization of the school district in the form of charter schools.

So, it is no surprise that both the local and national presidents of the PFT were in the house when the SRC axe came down.  As reported by philly.com: “‘What did the SRC bring us? The SRC brought us the privatization of our schools,’ said Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers …Randi Weingarten, president of the national teachers’ union the American Federation of Teachers, also was in attendance, declaring the end of the SRC ‘a huge victory for the people of Philadelphia.’”

Let’s be clear. Dissolution is a huge victory for the PFT. Whether it is a huge victory for the rest of us depends upon what happens next.

One thing we are pretty sure will not happen is an infusion of 150 million new dollars flowing into our school district from Harrisburg. Jim Kenney and Council President Darrell Clarke, at least, seem to have gotten this memo.  But they are both mum on exactly how we are going to fund the school district now that we have taken back local control. Former SRC chair, Bill Green, is calling for a 10% increase in property taxes; a political fantasy given the recent and recurring political angst over the beverage tax.

Kenney and Clarke seem to recognize that the SRC dissolution vote has now forced the Pottery Barn Rule: You break it, you own it. 

Attention all taxpayers: Spill in aisle 2018. 

SRC You Later, Part I

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