Wolf has a vision for ending Philly’s SRC, not a blueprint

 School Reform Commission members Sylvia Simms and Bill Green confer during hearings on charters school applications. Gov. Tom Wolf has said he's liked to dissolve the SRC, but not immediately.(NewsWorks file photo)

School Reform Commission members Sylvia Simms and Bill Green confer during hearings on charters school applications. Gov. Tom Wolf has said he's liked to dissolve the SRC, but not immediately.(NewsWorks file photo)

The Philadelphia School Reform Commission is here to stay, at least for a little while longer.

Gov. Tom Wolf campaigned on the idea that he’d like to replace the SRC with a locally elected body, but proponents of that plan shouldn’t hold their breath. 

There are two ways the SRC can end: either the state legislature would pass legislation to repeal the 2001 bill that created it in the first place. Or the five-member body can vote to self destruct.

Wolf would prefer Philadelphia’s schools to be overseen by a democratically elected governing board, but he says he’s not going to put immediate pressure on either of those two options.

“My preference is to actually create an environment where an SRC isn’t necessary,” he said in a recent interview.

All of the other school districts in Pennsylvania have a nine-member elected school board. The SRC was established in 2001 when the district was considered to be in fiscal distress. The governor appoints three members to the board and Philadelphia’s mayor appoints two. Unlike other districts, it does not have taxing-authority — leaving it at the mercy of the city, state and federal government for resources.

There are currently three other districts that are under state takeover, Duquesne, York City and Harrisburg. Chester-Upland is in receivership. Each of those has retained a school board with taxing authority.

Wolf expects the education funding increases he proposed in his budget would provide Philadelphia with the resources to improve dramatically.

But that prospect faces an uphill climb. For Philadelphia to get close to its funding request this year, Wolf’s budget — and all the tax trade-offs within — would need to win the approval of the Republican-held legislature. Philadelphia City Council would also need to approve Mayor Nutter’s 9.3 percent property tax increase.

Even with those funding increases, much of those new resources would only replace what’s been cut from Philly classrooms in recent years.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Wolf is not setting a timetable for when he’d like to see the SRC dissolved.

“My timetable is to provide a good education for the children of Philadelphia as quickly as possible,” said Wolf.

Before the SRC, the Philadelphia School District was governed by a nine member body appointed by the mayor.

Each of the Democratic candidates in this year’s Philadelphia mayoral race have expressed an openness to changing the city’s school governance structure. But only former Common Pleas Court Judge Nelson Diaz has actively campaigned to abolish the SRC.

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