May 10, 2017
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 10, 2017
Estelle Richman’s Confirmation is the Opportunity to Return Philadelphia Schools to Local Control
On May 10th, Estelle Richman was confirmed unanimously by the State Senate. This came after Richman spent months in limbo, since her nomination by Governor Wolf in October. Since September of 2016, the Our City Our Schools coalition has called on the three new SRC Commissioners appointed by Mayor Kenney and Governor Wolf to vote to abolish the SRC, thereby returning our schools to local control. The Our City Our Schools coalition has released the following statement in response to Richman’s confirmation:
After months of delay by the Pennsylvania legislature, Estelle Richman has been confirmed for the 5-person unelected School Reform Commission. The delay in confirming Ms. Richman is nothing new from the Pennsylvania legislature. Since the state took away the local governing power of the Philadelphia schools 15 years ago and put into place the School Reform Commission, we have seen the state fail our schools, our kids, our teachers and our parents. The School Reform Commission has deliberately targeted school closures in Black and Brown neighborhoods, cancelled the teachers’ contract, and opened the gates for unaccountable expansion of charter schools.
But with Ms. Richman’s confirmation, there is the potential for huge change for our schools. Over the past six months, Mayor Kenney and Governor Wolf have appointed three new SRC members — Chair Joyce Wilkerson, Chris McGinley and Estelle Richman. Mayor Kenney and Governor Wolf have both pledged support for returning the Philadelphia schools to local control by abolishing the School Reform Commission through a simple majority vote of School Reform Commissioners. Should our new SRC Commissioners follow the words of their appointers, we now have the necessary votes to abolish the School Reform Commission once and for all.
Recognizing the opportunity that comes with the recent confirmation, Antione Little, a member of 215 People’s Alliance and chair of the Our City Our School coalition said the following: “With a President and Secretary of Education opposed to public education, with a 2018 Gubernatorial election on the horizon, the time is now to protect Philadelphia’s public schools and give power back to residents of the city. We ask that our three new School Reform Commissioners — Chair Joyce Wilkerson, Chris McGinley and Estelle Richman — bring forth a vote to abolish the School Reform Commission. In doing so, they will play a pivotal role in moving the Philadelphia schools forward by returning the voice of Philadelphia parents, teachers, students and community members to our schools after fifteen years.”
The vote for local control can’t come soon enough. Once the vote occurs, it will take another calendar year to transition into a new school governance system, according to PA State Law. In November 2018, the state of Pennsylvania will vote on the Governor. Many of us remember the horror of what happened to our Philadelphia schools under the state control of the Republican Governor Tom Corbett — massive cuts to school funding, layoffs and wage freezes to teachers and other school staff and dozens of school closures in Black and Brown neighborhoods. Our school system has yet to recover from the imposition of an austerity budget — and we can’t risk this ever again. To avoid the risk of a Republican governor controlling our schools, the SRC must vote to abolish themselves by by the November School Reform Commission meeting, at the very latest. Once the vote takes place, we will have the remainder of the 2017-2018 school year to have a city-wide conversation about what kind of school governance system Philadelphians want next.
The Our City Our Schools coalition is made up of parents, educators, community members and students all fighting for local control of the Philadelphia schools and the end to the state-controlled School Reform Commissions. The coalition includes: POWER, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, Philadelphia NAACP, 215 People’s Alliance, Taxi Workers Alliance, AFSCME DC 47, AFSCME 1199C, PASNAP, Philly Student Union, UNITE HERE Local 634, Parents United for Public Education, Reclaim Philadelphia, AFT Local 2026, Teacher Action Group, Caucus of Working Educators, Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools, Neighborhood Networks and the Media Mobilizing Project.