Will Philly’s New School Board Welcome Choice?

Yesterday the Educational Nominating Panel for Philadelphia’s new school board voted to recommend board candidates to Mayor Kenney. Here is who made the list:

Sarah-Ashley Andrews, Jenne Ayers, Tonya Bah, Dario Bellot, Suzanne Biemiller, Laura Boyce, Rotonya Carr, Julia Danzy, Susan DeJarnatt, Stacy Dutton, Letitia Egea-Hinton, Mallory Fix Lopez, Susanna Greenberg, Anuj Gupta, Lee Huang, Renee Hughes, Loree Jones, Chad Lassiter, Maria McColgan, Chris McGinley, Angela McIver, Folasade Olanipekun-Lewis, Sharon Parker, Akil Parker, Roberta Trombetta, Patricia Wellenbach, and Joyce Wilkerson.

Two of the nominees currently sit on the soon-to-be-defunct School Reform Commission. Several of the nominees have experience leading charter schools and at least one nominee is an outspoken critic of education choice.

As the Philadelphia Public School Notebook reports, Mayor Kenney has the option of selecting nine of these candidates within 20 days or requesting more names within 10 days. Depending on his actions, we will soon know if he is looking out for the teachers’ unions or for students and their families.

Philadelphia parents have long been begging for more education choices for their children. Every year, thousands of students go home disappointed from charter school lotteries because there aren’t enough spaces to meet the demand. Thousands more miss out on tax credit scholarships because of arbitrary caps set by the state. These shortages are due in large part to the political muscle of the teachers’ unions that oppose parental choice in education.

Recent news stories show the School Reform Commission (SRC) has been increasingly at odds with parents when it comes to charter schools. Hundreds of people rallied against a proposed SRC policy that would limit the autonomy of charter schools. With the SRC disbanding, the new school board needs to correct course and support the rights of parents to direct their children’s education.

Mayor Kenney has a unique opportunity to select board members who will promote innovative approaches to improving education in Philadelphia, including embracing parental choice through charter schools, tax credit scholarships, and education savings accounts.

No child should be trapped in a failing school simply because of their zip code. As Mayor Kenney reviews the nominating panel’s recommendations, he should recognize that the quality of a child’s education is more important than maintaining the failing status quo.