Panel votes to give Philadelphia control of schools

PHILADELPHIA (AP/WTXF) ---- Philadelphia has moved another step closer to gaining control of the city's struggling public school system after 16 years of state oversight.

The School Reform Commission on Thursday voted to dissolve itself and return the school district to local control.

Democratic Mayor Jim Kenney wants to replace the commission with a local school board that would be appointed by him and approved by the City Council. It would be put in place by July 1, 2018. Kenney says it's time for the city to be accountable for the education of its 200,000 schoolchildren.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf supports local control.

The commission was created in 2001 as a temporary form of governance for the school district.

Mayor Kenney released a statement reading in part:

"Today, we are one step closer to bringing quality schools to every neighborhood in Philadelphia. No longer will elected officials be able to play the blame game for the state of schools - pointing to one of the members of the School Board they did not appoint. 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. I also want to thank the parents, teachers, principals and all the other members of PFT, CASA, and SEIU who worked tirelessly to provide a good education for our students despite difficult cuts over the last several years. You all will continue to be critical in charting the District's future, and I look forward to working together.