Lawmakers defend Ackerman

    A group of African American legislative leaders today defended Philadelphia schools chief Arlene Ackerman and attacked the Philadelphia Inquirer for its stories about the school district’s award of business to a minority contractor.

    A front page Inquirer story on Nov. 28 raised questions about Ackerman’s award of a camera installation contract to a minority firm after another company had already begun work on the project.

    A school district spokeswoman initially said Ackerman had nothing to do with the contract. Three days later the paper said Ackerman acknowledged she had directed that a minority contractor be used on the job.

    A long list of speakers defended Ackerman and criticized the newspaper at Wednesday’s meeting of the School Reform Commission. One of them was Philadelphia State Representative Ronald Waters, chair of the the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus.

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    Waters returned to the issue Thursday, holding a news conference with other lawmakers to praise Ackerman’s efforts on behalf of minority businesses.

    “We are very proud that she stepped up to the plate and did the right thing,” Waters said. “We are very disappointed, however, that someone would criticize her for doing the right thing.’

    Though the news conference was held at the school district headquarters, Ackerman did not attend.

    Inquirer edtior Stan Wischnowski saidthe paper stands by its stories. “It’s a $3 billion budget, and we have an important watchdog role to play,” he said.


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