City Council approves ballot question on returning school district to Philly control

 Philadelphia City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

Philadelphia City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

Philadelphia voters could have a question on the fall ballot asking if they want to dissolve the School Reform Commission and return oversight of the district to local control.

If approved, however, the referendum would not be binding.

About 40,000 people have signed petitions calling for the return of the Philadelphia School District to local control, said Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell. The bill was delayed a week, she said, to avoid interference with the Philadelphia cigarette tax legislation moving in Harrisburg.

“Tobacco looks more certain, and therefore we feel the City Council and myself cannot be criticized for holding the vote up,” she said Thursday. “Therefore, we think it gives us the opportunity to vote for local control of the school board.”

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Diane Payne, a retired school teacher who has called for an abolition of the school reform commission, said it has been a disaster.

“Since the SRC was forced onto the citizens of this city more than a decade ago, we have fallen only deeper into fiscal mismanagement, less accountability, more chaos due to school closings and rampant charter school growth,” she said.

The ballot referendum would be nonbinding because the city doesn’t have the power to eliminate the SRC. But Blackwell said she hopes if approved it would sent a message Philadelphia is ready to take control again.

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