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Philadelphia Voters Approve Measure in Favor of Elected School Board

Philadelphia voters approved a ballot measure on Tuesday to abolish the School Reform Commission, the unelected board made up of gubernatorial and mayoral appointees that runs the school system, and put a locally-elected board in charge.

The non-binding vote in Tuesday's primary follows in the footsteps of voters in another city, Chicago, where residents voted overwhelmingly in February to end their appointed school board, the members of which are chosen by the mayor.

The measures in both cities are non-binding, and both would require the support of their respective state legislatures and governors to go into effect.

The Philadelphia ballot measure asked for the governor and the legislature to abolish the five-member School Reform Commission and return the schools to local control.

The School Reform measure—among four ballot questions put before voters—was sponsored by City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, who told the Philadelphia Daily News that there was a need among voters for a "more-connected" school board.

Blackwell said the measure gave supporters of abolishing the School Reform Commission the opportunity to speak with the governor about changing the governance structure. 

The School Reform Commission has run the approximately 142,000-student school system since 2001 when the state took over the district because of poor academic performance on state math and reading assessments.

In recent years, the School Reform Commission and community education activists have been at odds over the expansion of charter schools, the closures of neighborhood schools, and budget cuts that have decimated school support staff.

Voters also approved another education-related measure that would create an independent universal pre-K commission, which would be comprised of 17 members appointed by the mayor and the city council. The members would deliberate over funding and implementing pre-K for 3- and 4-year olds without cutting current education funding, according to the Daily News.

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