For many years, the public schools of Philadelphia have been drastically underfunded by the state of Pennsylvania. This created a series of fiscal crises, which should have produced equitable funding, but instead gave cause for a state takeover, thus blaming the city for the state’s failures. The state established the appointed School Reform Commission in 2001. The SRC appointed Paul Vallas to run the district, and he launched the nation’s largest experiment (to that date) in privatized schooling, handing over some 40 schools to private, for-profit, and university management. The experiment was an expensive failure, and he left the city with a large deficit, bound for New Orleans to push an even bigger experiment in school privatization.

The SRC has continued the Vallas tradition, closing public schools, opening charter schools, and leaving public schools in desperate straits.

To sum it up, state control has been a disaster for the children of Philadelphia.

Lisa Haver wrote an article in the Philadelphia Daily News outlining the secrecy that surrounds the deliberations of the School Reform Commission. Even the budget is hidden from public view until the SRC has made all its decisions, without considering the voices of parents or teachers.

She asks and answers questions about the role and lack of transparency of the SRC.

She concludes like this:

“Should the SRC schedule a meeting in which it plans to decide on renewals of 23 charter schools with less than a week’s notice?

“The district’s budget shows that it will spend $894 million — about one-third of the budget — on charters next year. Shouldn’t the SRC allow enough time for those paying the tab to read the reports? They may want to ask why schools that have met none of the standards are being recommended for renewal.

“Should the SRC publicly deliberate before voting on significant financial, academic and policy resolutions?

“The SRC approved contracts totaling $149.2 million at its February meeting; it spent $173.1 million in March. Resolutions are voted on in batches of 10 or 15, with little explanation of why.

“How do we reform the School Reform Commission? By abolishing it. Philadelphians have the right, as all other Pennsylvanians do, to decide who will represent them on an elected school board.”