A Republican state senator wants Pennsylvania’s Department of Education to look into the controversy over a contract to run a Philadelphia high school. Joint reporting by NewsWorks.org/WHYY and the Philadelphia Public School Notebook has revealed concerns that the chairman of the district’s School Reform Commission twisted arms over a nearly $60 million contract to run Martin Luther King Jr. high school
More than a week after WHYY reported on a secret meeting among School Reform Commission Chairman Robert Archie, state Rep. Dwight Evans, a school district official and the head of Mosaica Education, no one is talking about what was said at the session.
But questions remain about why Mosaica Education the next day pulled out of a potential contract to run King high school. Both Archie and Evans have connections to a competitor for the charter contract: Foundations Inc. Archie had recused himself from the vote when the commission decided to put Mosaica in charge of King.
Members of the volunteer School Advisory Council have also reported feeling during a private meeting with Archie that he was pressuring them to reconsider their support of Mosaica.
Now state Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi said he wants the Department of Education to investigate. Pileggi said the incident, along with a tight budget cycle, could make it difficult for district officials seeking more money from Harrisburg.
“It necessarily raises the question, is this just the tip of the iceberg?” said Pileggi. “Do we have more systemic problems in the district that reflect a lack of stewardship of state taxpayer dollars?”
Pileggi said the state is already struggling with less federal money available this year for education.
Mayor Michael Nutter announced earlier this week that his chief integrity officer will investigate the King situation.
The School Reform Commission will meet in a public session Wednesday afternoon.