|Posted:||December 30, 2014 04:01 PM|
|From:||Representative Mark B. Cohen|
|To:||All House members|
|Subject:||Legislation to Repeal Act 46 of 1998 - the School Reform Commission in Cities of the First Class|
|In the near future, I will re-introduce legislation (HB 1821) to amend provisions of the School Code, as amended by Act 46 of 1998, to restore governing power to Philadelphia’s now-irrelevant school board and to make the governance of Philadelphia School District similar to the governance of other school districts in the state in terms of elections and taxing power.
In 2002, frustrated by low student achievements and by financial crises, the legislature and Governor Mark Schweiker, despite the opposition of myself and other legislators, declared Philadelphia’s schools ‘distressed,’ dissolved its school board and installed an appointed School Reform Commission (SRC) that had the power to unilaterally impose contract terms, overhaul traditional schools and turn them into charters, lengthen the school day and year without compensating workers for those longer hours, layoff teachers regardless of seniority or tenure, and taking away the union’s right to strike, among other things. These draconian sanctions were, with rare exceptions, used as a club to threaten union leaders but were not actually implemented.
In 2013 and 2014, the Philadelphia SRC cancelled the city’s contract with the 15,000 members of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, sought to cut teachers’ health care benefits, and threaten other cuts in contract rights. The Philadelphia Common Pleas Court issued an injunction halting these changes for now while the Commonwealth Court considers arguments on the matter.
Under the 13-year tenure of the School Reform Commission, not only has the financial condition of the Philadelphia School District dramatically worsened, but the morale of its teachers, students and parents has plummeted in the face of determined disrespect. The SRC has not improved education outcomes in Philadelphia. Except for improvements made in restructured, district-managed schools, neither cyber nor brick and mortar charters initiated by the SRC – whether for-profit or non-profits - have delivered much on promises of positive change for students. Yet, the SRC promises or threatens more layoffs, more closed schools, and we have to step in and say, “Enough, no more.”
I hope you will join me in cosponsoring this legislation to return equilibrium and purpose to Philadelphia’s schools, and to allow the same level of participation in the educational process for Philadelphians as exists throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
If you have any questions about this legislation, please contact Kathy Seidl of my office at 787-4117 or email@example.com.
Previous cosponsors of HB 1821: Brownlee, M. Daley, Kotik, O’Brien and Youngblood.
Introduced as HB1056