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Neff and Green present a unified front despite SRC shake-up

Neff on the PFT contract: "We can't spend money we don't have, and we have to have work-rule changes."

Photo: Kevin McCorry/WHYY

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

In the wake of the recent School Reform Commission shake-up, Marjorie Neff and Bill Green presented a unified front Tuesday at a lighthearted news conference at Philadelphia School District headquarters.

Green, a former city councilman who left his post to become SRC chair in January 2014, was stripped of the leadership position by Gov. Wolf on March 1.

Wolf tapped Neff – a former District principal and teacher who became a commissioner in July – to become chair, saying that she "shared his vision for investing in public education."

On Tuesday, both commissioners met with reporters in hopes of refocusing the public’s attention on what they described as a shared quest to improve educational outcomes for the city’s children.

"One of the reasons a dispute over the title of chair doesn’t serve children is because it would have created a continuing partisan issue in Harrisburg," said Green. "And, frankly, that is not in children’s interest, not just in Philadelphia, but across the commonwealth."

On Monday, Green announced that he would abandon plans to challenge the legality of Wolf’s move in court.

"It speaks to his dedication to this service, because this is public service," Neff said. "And it’s going to make it easier for us to work together."

Both believe the public’s attention would be better focused on the prospect of the District securing additional funding from the city and the state.

"We have schools where children don’t have the basic supplies that they need, and this would go a long way to not only closing the gap, but moving [Superintendent William Hite’s] Action Plan 3.0 forward," said Neff.

Wolf’s recent budget address outlined a broad strategy to increase statewide education spending by hiking the state’s sales, personal-income, and cigarette taxes, in addition to creating a new tax on natural gas drilling and instituting changes on the charter school sector.

Middle-class homeowners, Wolf said, would see a 13 percent net tax decrease, though, due to a property tax relief plan that would shift the state’s share of the public education tab from 35 percent to more than 50 percent.

Philadelphia’s Mayor Nutter announced in his budget address Thursday that he’d seek a 9 percent property tax hike to fund the schools.The plans from Nutter and Wolf will face stark opposition this budget season from, respectively, City Council and the Republicans who control the state legislature.

Altogether, the plans would provide $288 million in new, recurring revenue to the Philadelphia School District, which has asked for $309 million.

"We’re literally taking the A team off the bench and putting them on the field with this money, and people are going to see a tremendous difference in schools just over a period of a few short years," said Green. "Now we have to fight together to go get it."

Having served in City Council, Green acknowledged the precarious nature of voting for a tax increase in an election year.

"My suggestion to my colleagues would be to not vote until [the primary on] May 19, and then give us the funding that the mayor has requested," he said with a laugh.

Green showed no sign that the demotion hurt his pride, nor his political ambitions.

"I took this job to put myself out of a job," he said, referring to the SRC’s ability to self-terminate. "And, hopefully, with all the funding on the table, we’ll be able to do that in the next couple of years."

Read the rest of this story at NewsWorks

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