By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Amid the latest school funding crisis, Philadelphia local advocates are pushing for a city ballot question on whether to return the school district to local control, effectively putting the School Reform Commission out of business.
The problem is, the decision rests in Harrisburg, not City Hall.
Before adjourning for the summer, a City Council committee heard from school advocates who want a ballot question in Philadelphia this November on whether the school district should return to local governance.
The vote would have no legal impact, as the governance question rests with the governor and state legislature.
But Hillary Linardopoulos, of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, said the ballot question would be an important, symbolic, statement.
“Even though it’s non-binding, it still is an official proclamation,” she told the councilmembers. “If it has the result of showing what the Philadelphia residents want, it will be a mandate for the new governor.”
But most councilmembers on the Law and Government Committee were lukewarm to the idea.
Councilman Bill Greenlee objected to the idea of using charter-change resolutions to make political statements.
“We’re slowly turning the city charter into an opinion poll,” Greenlee said. “What if the churches got together and wanted a ballot question to ban gay marriage? Would you want that on the ballot? Do we keep going in that direction?”
And councilwoman Marian Tasco voiced the fear that a school governance ballot question could prompt Harrisburg lawmakers to actually give back control and then walk away from the obligation to increase funding.
“The majority of (legislators) are from all over the state, and they all hate Philadelphia,” Tasco said. “Not all of them — some of them. So (they might say), ‘OK, let’s just see what we can do to give them what they want!’ ”
In the end, the committee moved the proposal out of committee without approval or rejection. The idea next goes to the full Council, which is now in recess until the fall.