Strange Priorities

From 1965 until 2001, the city of Philadelphia’s public school system was run by a board of education appointed by the mayor.  When the school system fell into a deep financial hole the state agreed to help but the price it exacted was disbanding the existing board of education and replacing it with a new oversight body, the School Reform Commission, whose members were appointed by the governor and state legislative leaders.  For years Philadelphians called for return to local rule – not that it’s going to make a difference – and they’ve finally gotten their wish:  on July 1, a new, locally appointed board of education took over and the School Reform Commission faded into the sunset (except for two of its members, who were part of the School Reform Commission that Philadelphians found unacceptable yet who were inexplicably considered acceptable to serve on the new, locally appointed school board).

The new board of education is off to a roaring start, too, offering a clear demonstration of its priorities that is as startling as it is disconcerting:

It’s redecorating.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that even before the new board took over, it undertook a $500,000 renovation of its offices that includes pulling school district-owned stained glass out of storage, restoring it, and hanging it in the new board’s office.  One board member said this was proof that the new board means business.

Sure, if its business is to have nice offices.

Other aspects of the $500,000 renovation include a new meeting room with a long table for meetings and a new, open-plan office to replace the individual offices previous board members occupied.

So the new board’s first step on the job is to make itself more comfortable.  As an expression of priorities, this does not bode well for the more than 125,000 children who are counting on these officials to help them learn.


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