This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Today is election day.
Some studies show that almost 85% of Philadelphia voters will stay home and give up their right to vote. But if you care about where the money goes in the Philadelphia public schools, here’s hoping you won’t be one of those people staying at home.
That’s because today is the election for the City Controller, one of the most important offices for school parents. The City Controller is an independent auditing agency which is responsible for auditing a host of institutions and that includes the School District of Philadelphia.
As you know, very few people have access to or responsibility for District finances. City Council this year had only one day to ask the School District for an accounting of its work. Other than Council and the City Controller, there’s nobody else – officially speaking, that is – who looks over the District’s books on behalf of the public.
The City Controller also has the power to audit agencies like the Philadelphia Parking Authority. In 2007, Parents United for Public Education launched a successful campaign against the PPA for its failure to deliver money to the schools while using up most of its profits for excessive salaries and benefits and increased patronage positions.
The result of the campaign was that the Parking Authority agreed to turn over a few million a year to the schools. However, we believe that was more of a political compromise rather than a true accounting of expenses.
If you didn’t get out to any candidate forums, there’s a lot of information about the Controller’s race that I encourage parents to read. You can find out basic information about the Controller’s race at the Committee for Seventy. You can find a strong pro and con dialogue on two of the candidates for Controller at Young Philly Politics including interviews with Alan Butkovitz (the current Controller) and Brett Mandel. John Braxton (another Democrat) and Al Schmidt (an unopposed Republican) are also running.
In either case, no matter how you feel right now, it’s not too late to learn about a candidate, ask questions of your friends and neighbors, consider the issues, and make a strike for good government today.
Vote please. Our schools need it.