How the People's Board would change education
This is the second opinion of the Daily News People's Editorial Board.
We the people are disturbed by the quality of public education in Philadelphia.
We know schools can't fix broad social problems like poverty. But we also know Philadelphia needs better leadership than it's gotten from the School Reform Commission. So at our meeting this month, the People's Board asked: How should the city schools be governed?
The current setup, the SRC, is a five-member, volunteer commission, with two members appointed by the mayor and three by the governor. It's in charge of overseeing the district's finances, hiring a superintendent and guiding educational policy.
We've heard a lot of people arguing that instead of elected officials appointing a school board, the public should elect school leaders. We think this is a bad idea. Low-profile elections tend to be controlled by special interests and Democratic Party machinery. This yields bad results. Just look at Council.
It's also tempting to put the entire school board under the control of the mayor, so he alone can be held accountable for the schools. But we want the governor and the state to have skin in the game, too.
We like the hybrid-nature of the SRC, with the mayor and governor sharing responsibility - though maybe it needs to be bigger. We have a few ways to improve it:
Appoint an OmbudsParent. The district has an office dedicated to parent engagement, but it doesn't have a parent who monitors how well things are going. The OmbudsParent will communicate with parent associations from around the city, and make public reports. In fact, why not have a parent on the SRC?
Bring back local school boards. Philadelphia used to have small, regional school boards that were in touch with local educational issues. We see too many practical obstacles to return to that. But we like the idea of neighborhood-level school boards advising the district. At first, we imagine they'd have the authority only to make recommendations. But as they develop expertise, they could be given more power.
Tie SRC terms to the mayor's and governor's terms. SRC members' appointments should expire when the elected official who appointed them leaves office. This will improve the ability of the mayor and governor to affect the schools, and will make it harder for them to make excuses.
These changes should improve oversight of the school district. But at the end of the day, we need good people on the SRC to make the schools run better.
Mayor Nutter, Gov. Corbett, we're looking at you.