This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
A judge on Monday tossed out School Reform Commissioner Bill Green’s lawsuit to regain the chairmanship of the soon-to-be-dissolved board.
Green filed the suit after he was removed as chairman of the SRC by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf in 2015 and replaced by Marjorie Neff.
Republican Gov. Tom Corbett had appointed Green as chair of the board in 2014.
A corporate lawyer before becoming a Democratic city councilman, Green was represented in his suit by The Fairness Center—a pro-bono law firm with ties to right-wing think tanks.
The suit contended that Green was removed from the chairmanship for political reasons, but without cause. At the time, Wolf’s spokesman said he was within his rights as governor and did not need a cause. The court ultimately agreed, dismissing the lawsuit on the grounds that the governor has every right to choose a chair of the politically appointed commission.
“[Green] was not removed from office,” wrote Judge Joseph M. Cosgrove in his ruling. “While he no longer holds the position of chairman, he is nonetheless a full, commissioned member of the SRC in good standing, holding all the rights and privileges of that office until his term ends."
Green released a statement accepting the ruling, indicating that he does not plan to appeal.
“It is now settled that Marge Neff and Joyce Wilkerson were and are Chair,” Green said in his statement. “I will continue to work with Chair Wilkerson to make sure the transition to local control is as smooth as possible. While I don’t agree with every aspect of the ruling, it does not seem worth pursuing this matter further given last month’s vote to dissolve the SRC."
He thanked The Fairness Center for representing him in court. The nonprofit center provides pro-bono legal representation to “those hurt by public employee union officials,” according to its website.
As chairman, Green was known for his support of charter school expansion. Members of The Fairness Center’s board have strong ties to Betsy DeVos, the controversial U.S. education secretary, and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which is funded by libertarian billionaires Charles and David Koch. Both ALEC and DeVos’ organization, American Federation for Children, advocate for charter school expansion.
Green’s support of charter expansion may have played a role in his ouster from the chairmanship of the SRC. At the time, Green accused the governor of removing him for continuing to approve more charter schools after Wolf had voiced support for a halt on charter expansion.