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November 16, 2017

Philly to take control of its schools after SRC votes to disband

Kenney: Vote brings city 'one step closer to bringing quality schools to every neighborhood'

Education Philadelphia School District
School District of Philadelphia headquarters Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

The School District of Philadelphia headquarters on North Broad Street.

The state-run School Reform Commission voted to disband as expected on Thursday night, a process that will end with Philadelphia taking back control of its public school district.

Public calls for the move grew louder in recent years, and Mayor Jim Kenney formally called for the SRC to dissolve itself earlier this month.

Kenney is set to appoint a panel in charge of picking a nine-member school board that would be put in place by July 1, 2018.

In 2015, city voters approved a non-binding referendum that asserted Philly's preference for local control of the district.

“Today, we are one step closer to bringing quality schools to every neighborhood in Philadelphia," Kenney said in a statement following Thursday night's vote. "No longer will our schools be run by a Board with several different patrons, which too often leads to disorganization or unproductive infighting. The buck will stop with one person, the mayor, and I fully expect Philadelphians to hold me and future mayors accountable.

"I commend the members of School Reform Commission for acting in the best interest of our city, tonight. This is not something you have done lightly, and I look forward to working with you to ensure a smooth transition to the local board next year."

The commission has controlled the school district since the state created it in 2001, after the district was declared financially distressed.

Although the SRC's resolution to disband states that the district is no longer in distress, the district is projected to face a $1 billion deficit over the next five years. Kenney pledged earlier this month that he would cover a large chunk of the deficit, reported.

On Thursday, Kenney expressed support for District Superintendent William Hite, who remains under contract until 2022. Hite was given a five-year contract extension in December 2015.

"I look forward to working with him to build on recent [progress] the district has made and to keep the momentum moving in the right direction," Kenney said.

The mayor also had a message for the city's students.

"You are the key to our city’s future," he said. "I believe every student in our city has great potential, and there’s nothing more important to me than making sure that the city provides you with everything you need to succeed.”