Mayoral candidates focus on education during West Oak Lane forum

A sizable crowd gathered at West Oak Lane Charter School on Saturday afternoon to see Lynne Abraham, Nelson Diaz, Doug Oliver, Jim Kenney and Anthony Williams discuss their run for the Democratic candidate for this year’s mayor’s race. 

Each candidate was allotted several minutes to introduce themselves and outline the platform of their candidacy.

Lynne Abraham started off by noting that the candidates are “strikingly similar,” and that this year’s cohort of Democrats are in fact all friends with each other, perhaps a “Philadelphia first.”

As expected, the candidates’ remarks focused heavily on the city’s education system.

“I want to fix the school system. I want you all to understand that the school system is broken,” said Diaz. “I grew up in public housing. School was there for me. It turned my life around.”

He  went on to stress the crucial role that parental involvement plays in education, while promising that if elected he would work to dismantle the School Reform Commission and return control of Philadelphia’s schools to its neighborhoods.

Abraham promised Philadelphians access to city governance, noting that “We’re all winners when democracy works.” She also said getting rid of the SRC would be a goal of her administration.

Oliver underlined his experience with Philadelphia Gas Works, promising to promote policies that will cultivate a spirit of entrepeneurship in Philadelphia, while also observing that “All roads lead back to education.”

He stated that if elected his administration would work to ensure that Harrisburg passes a fair funding formula for education, as well as create a plan to tax the city’s colleges and universities.

Kenney highlighted his position as an at-large member of the Philadelphia City Council since 1992. He promised that if elected his administration would work at “creating a city where everyone has the opportunity to succeed.”

He stressed the effect that conservative leadership in Harrisburg has had on Philadelphia’s school system, while also promising to return charter school reimbursement to the budget. Additionally, he advocated for citywide funding for pre-K school programs.

Anthony Williams advocated for a level playing field, stating that “It’s all about good schools for all children, regardless of income.”

He also noted that the day’s forum “is not a campaign stop for me,” arguing that West Oak Lane Charter School “is an example of what Philadelphia should look like for all Philadelphians.”

State Representatives Dwight Evans and Cherelle Parker and Eighth District Councilwoman Cindy Bass were also on hand.

Moderating the forum was Ninth District Councilwoman Marian Tasco, who will be retiring from her position this year.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.