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Nutter: Replace state-run panel that oversees Philadelphia schools with local board


PHILADELPHIA — The state-run panel that has overseen the Philadelphia school district for nearly 15 years should be dissolved and replaced by a local school board, Mayor Michael Nutter said Tuesday.

Nutter, who leaves office in January after eight years, said in a speech that the School Reform Commission should be replaced by a board made up of five members named by the mayor and four chosen from a list of a dozen nominees submitted by the City Council. He said the change should be put into effect by September 2017.

"Returning to local control means the voters of this city know who to hold accountable for educational outcomes — the mayor," he said.

The state took over the district in 2001, citing persistent financial problems and academic woes.

Nutter said some progress had been made during his time in office, but local control was needed along with more funding, better accountability and improved relationships between the district and its teachers.

Without such fundamental changes, he said, "we will be locked into a failing system, a system of profound inequity where your zip code can determine your likelihood of educational success."

Nutter said only five miles separates schools with a "dismal" 36 percent graduation rate from one with a 100 percent graduation rate. And while a third of students from the wealthiest neighborhoods are accepted into the best high schools, in the poorest neighborhoods, only 4 percent are accepted.

"Our system leaves future generations of Philadelphians woefully unprepared for the 21st-century global economy and ill-equipped to fully function in our communities," he said.

Commission chairwoman Marjorie Neff told Philadelphia Magazine that board members don't necessarily object to a return to local control but want to see state funding for the district increased and made more reliable.

This version corrects the year the mayor advocates the local board take control to 2017, not 2018.

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