By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — If at first you don’t succeed…City Council is trying again for a ballot referendum that would ask city voters whether to the school district should be under local control.
Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell originally wanted the ballot question about local control of the schools on next month’s general election ballot, but she delayed her push for that last month, so as not to upset state lawmakers who were voting on a cigarette tax to help the schools.
So now Council has approved Blackwell’s revised measure, which instead puts the question on the May primary ballot.
“So we’re back to square one. We want the voters to have the right to decide about having a local school board. So that will be on the ballot in May.”
But this is a non-binding ballot question. Only the state can decide on a change in governance for the school district, a point that Blackwell acknowledges.
“Absolutely the state does (have that power.)”
And Blackwell says she does not want to see the state abrogate its responsibility to fund the district.
“We’ve always heard these rumors that the state is happy to give us local control as long as we take local funding. You know, everyone wants to play with money.”
Blackwell says her effort was given new impetus in the wake of this past week’s decision by the School Reform Commission to throw out its contract with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.
It’s unclear if Mayor Nutter will sign off on the Blackwell ballot question proposal. His press office says the measure is being reviewed. But the plan passed by a 14-1 vote, indicating enough support to override a potential veto.
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