Advocates file complaint against SRC for Sunshine Act violation
On the morning of October 6, education advocates and press scrambled to attend a last-minute School Reform Commission meeting that was quietly announced in the back of that past Sunday’s Philadelphia Inquirer business section. With swift action, the commissioners voted to dissolve the school district’s contract with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, ultimately raising health care costs of employees. Former teacher Lisa Haver of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools (APPS) was also quick to act that day — she accused the commissioners of violating a Pennsylvania law that requires legislative bodies to give adequate notice of meetings and a chance for public comment before a vote.
“Every other meeting, speakers come first. When I wanted to speak on this resolution, I couldn’t do it,” Haver said that day. “That’s a clear violation of the Sunshine Act.”
Now, that accusation has been filed as an official complaint in the Court of Common Pleas against Chairman Bill Green and the SRC. The complaint targeted the last-minute notice of the meeting and its agenda as well as the time of day the vote took place, during a work day when the teachers affected by the vote would be in school. The Sunshine Act requires bodies like the SRC to give at least 24 hours notice of special meetings, which the commission technically did. Haver also argued that the commission didn't take public comment before the vote. Green has dismissed the complaints, calling them a "distraction" and a "waste of time," according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
“As we state in our complaint, the public should expect that the SRC would give adequate advance notice of such a major action, not take pains to shut the public out,” Haver said.