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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: November 5, 2021 02:49 PM
From: Senator Anthony H. Williams
To: All Senate members
Subject: School Board Reform Package for Philadelphia School District
     In the near future, I will be introducing a package of bills to improve community representation on the Philadelphia Board of Education. These bills would provide for a hybrid model of appointment and election of board members, allow for board members to be compensated for their service, and give voting privileges to student representatives on the board.
     Upon the dissolution of the School Reform Commission in 2017, Philadelphia City Council and voters approved a plan to reconstitute the city’s Board of Education as an nine member panel appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by city council. While the locally controlled Board is a major step forward for the city, citizens and taxpayers have expressed concerns over a lack of direct choice of representation. In every other school district in Pennsylvania, school directors are elected. Under this plan, the city would be enabled to approve a hybrid board, with both appointed and elected members. Such a plan would provide elected representation while maintaining mayoral appointments.
     The second bill would allow for taxpayers to approve pay for service on the Philadelphia Board of Education. Pennsylvania law prohibits payment for service as a school director; however, that prohibition is out of step with other large American cities with complex school districts. The Los Angeles Unified School District, which enrolls approximating 646,000 students, pay board members a salary of $125,000. With an operating budget of $3.38 billion, 214 school buildings, and over 18,000 staff members, Philadelphia’s 203,000 students deserve board members who dedicate full-time attention to their needs, and the board needs to be able to attract working parents who could not otherwise afford to serve in such a strenuous capacity.
     Finally, the last bill in this package would provide full voting rights to student representatives to the Board. If students are truly to have their needs and desires considered, their representatives must be able to fully participate in the decision-making process instead of an advisory capacity. This proposal would give the student population an equal seat at the table  in shaping the policy and operation of the district.
     Taken together, these proposals are a more representative, equitable, and fair system of self-governance for Pennsylvania’s largest school district and frankly are long overdue. Elected representation, fair pay for difficult work and heavy responsibility, and equal representation for the most affected constituents are hallmarks of our local, state and federal governments. It is time that the Philadelphia Board of Education reflects those promises as well, and I hope that you join me in co-sponsoring this important legislation

Document #1

Introduced as SB953

Description: The first bill enables the city to approve a hybrid school board with both appointed and elected members.

Document #2

Introduced as SB951

Description: The second bill would allow for taxpayers to approve pay for service on the Philadelphia Board of Education  with the exception of the student representative.

Document #3

Introduced as SB952

Description: The third bill would provide full voting rights to student representatives serving on the board.