At 10 minutes before noon, I saw Bob Archie, the chair of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission (the body that everywhere else would be called the school board) exiting city hall.
The time is significant, since Mayor Nutter had given Archie and his crew until noon today to submit an approved, signed agreement committing the school district to long term financial planning and giving the city unprecedented access to school district records.
Among other things, Nutter demands that the district give the city finance director “the full authority, resources, cooperation and assistance to access, retrieve, examine and receive data or other information from the financial systems of the School District of Philadelphia at any time from any place without seeking permission from the SRC or the Superintendent or other employees at any time.”
Would the district really give that kind of autonomy up?
Archie told me district will comply with Nutter’s requests, and that the mayor had given him until 3 o’clock to deliver the signed agreement. I’m at city hall now, expecting Nutter and School Superintendent Arlene Ackerman to eventually appear before reporters and promise to move forward together.
I’ll be interested to see the fine print of their agreement, whenver it becomes available.
And I wonder in the long run if Nutter really wants this kind of close relationship with the school system and the responsibility that comes with it. I know he feels passionately about public eduction, but in the end, he has a city to run, and I’m not sure how much of a difference he can personally make with the district, no matter how much information he gets.
The most immediate task ahead for him is convincing a very reluctant City Council to come up with some extra tax revenue for the schools. He’ll have to do it in a matter of days for it to matter in the coming budget year. Unless I’m misreading signals from Council, he’ll get nothing from them.