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City Council candidates’ views on education: Kristin Combs

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

On May 19, Philadelphians will hit the polls to winnow the field of City Council at-large candidates. Out of 28 declared candidates, only seven will be elected in November (including at least two from a minority party). Each party can run five candidates in the general election. The Notebook reached out to the candidates, asking their opinions on the election’s most gripping issue: education.

Where do candidates stand on the School Reform Commission’s decision to approve five new charter school applications? Whose job is it to find more money for public schools, the city’s or the District’s? Absent an agreement with the teachers’ union, do they think the SRC is right to pursue concessions through the courts? And finally, what ideas do they have for how the District can fix its financial problems?

We are posting statements from City Council candidates responding to these prompts in the order we received them. Today’s statement comes from Green Party candidate Kristin Combs, a public school teacher at Penn Treaty High School. She received her master’s degree in secondary education from the University of Pennsylvania.

Responses were edited for length and clarity.

The School Reform Commission was appointed to govern the District because of the budgetary troubles. Ironically, the SRC’s recent decision to approve five new charters was financially irresponsible, and further funneling taxpayer funds from public schools directly violated its purpose as the governing body of our District.

The budget for the School District of Philadelphia is the joint responsibility of the city and the state. Harrisburg should be responsible for fundraising and allocating the budget, and, even while the allocations to our schools dwindle, our District needs to be held accountable for making optimal financial decisions.

The SRC violated the spirit of collective bargaining when it began to pursue contract concessions through the court system. The PFT and the SRC had not come to an impasse in negotiations.

The District is severely underfunded. The city and state must both re-prioritize their budgets to direct spending away from corporate subsidies and the prison system to more fully fund the school system. Additionally, the District must be held accountable for instituting privatization schemes that have drained resources from the school budgets and should either seek new leadership or admit to its mistakes and create a new plan with a new mindset.

See the responses from other City Council candidates

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