Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney Moves to Dissolve School Reform Commission

Mayor Jim Kenney reveals plan in front of Philadelphia City Council.

What to Know

  • Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney is backing a plan to dissolve the School Reform Commission (SRC) and take control of city schools back.
  • For 16 years, the SRC has overseen the city’s public and charter schools, making budget and policy decisions.
  • Even if the dissolution of the SRC is granted, it won't go into effect until June 30.

UPDATE: Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney revealed his plan Thursday to wrestle back control of Philadelphia schools.

Philadelphia is moving one step closer to taking back control of the city’s struggling school district, which is facing a $1 billion deficit.

After years of political tug-of-war, Mayor Jim Kenney is backing a plan to dissolve the School Reform Commission (SRC). Dismantling the commission would mean regaining local control of Philadelphia’s school district since a state takeover more than 15 years ago.

On Thursday morning, Kenney addressed a packed session of Philadelphia City Council to discuss the plan.

"Again, and again, we've told the people of Philadelphia the state of their schools is someone else's responsibility, that ends today," Kenney told council.

Created in 2001, the SRC oversees the city’s public and charter schools, makes major policy and budgetary decisions for the school district and appoints the superintendent.

The SRC currently comprises three members appointed by the governor who serve five years each and two members appointed by the mayor who serve four years each. There is no limit to the number of terms a member can serve.

Opponents of the SRC have called for the creation of a locally-controlled school board.

Under the plan, the SRC must recommend its dissolution by a majority vote on Nov. 16. The Pennsylvania Secretary of Education must then certify the vote by issuing a declaration dissolving the SRC by Dec. 31.

Even if the dissolution is granted, it won't go into effect until June 30 — the end of the fiscal year. During the six-month period, the SRC will continue to oversee the district while the new school board is appointed.

The new school board will be composed of nine people appointed by Kenney. Before that occurs however, there will be a 13-member nominating committee who will receive nominations and make a short list of 27 names for Kenney to consider. Kenney is expected to announce the nominating committee at the end of this year and nine of the best people will be chosen. 

Unlike traditional school boards, the members will not represent specific districts or geographic locations to ensure "equitable representation," officials said.

Officials say Philadelphia City Council is expected to pass a measure that would require them to approve the school board and by February or March of next year the school board will be appointed. They won't have any official power until July 1, 2018 however.

Officials say the board members will serve at the pleasure of Kenney for the remainder of his term. When a new mayor is elected however, the new mayor will have the opportunity to appoint a new board and get rid of anyone.

Existing SRC members will be instructed to reapply if interested in serving on the new school board.

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