School District of Philadelphia headquarters on North Broad Street. Credit: Wiki Commons.
This is why Philadelphians should take an interest in the School Reform Commission (SRC), the upcoming appointment of a new chairman and how it governs the city's schools:
"We're paying a lot of money for it," said Zack Stalberg, president and CEO of the Committee of Seventy. "As long as its your money, you might as well have an influence in terms of how it's spent."
The SRC is a five-member group that acts as the ultimate decision making body in terms of public education and how education dollars are spent. The board determines policy for both the traditional public schools and Charter Schools.
The board decides how to spend more than $3 billion of taxpayer dollars, and how to fix the public schools, which helps draw and keep people in this city.
"Certainly nobody would say the result of that spending is terrific," Stalberg said. "If it's going to get better then the SRC is really the provider of oversight and its going to be the one that sets the bar for (Superintendent William) Hite or Charter Schools or anyone else in public education."
The governor appoints three commissioners, and Mayor appoints two.
The former SRC chairman, Pedro Ramos, resigned this week citing family issues after serving two years as the commission's head. Ramos was a appointed by Gov. Tom Corbett. His replacement has not yet been named.
Stalberg said he does not see former Governor Ed Rendell, who's been rumored as a candidate, taking the position.
So, who runs our schools?
At one time, city schools were governed by the city. But in 2001 the state handed the district over to the SRC due to financial and performance issues.
So the state controls our schools, right?
"There's a lot of talk about state control of the schools," Stalberg said, "And that's handy, but not quite true."
The governor and mayor each appoint members.
"The state does not control the schools," Stalberg said, "the SRC controls the schools."
Recently there has been discussions about disbanding the SRC, but Stalberg said that question won't be a hot-button issue until the 2015 mayoral race.