Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Michael Nutter on Philly schools

Michael Nutter, mayoral candidate, talks about public schools. (photo KP) Posted by Picasa

Thirty years late, I have found the answer. First, I should disclose that I stopped reading lyrics in album covers when they stopped making albums. Second, and more to the point, Van Halen's debut album included no lyrics in the album cover, leaving us all to stumble in the aural darkness. So it came as nothing less than Epiphany when, driving home from competing in my first Half-Ironman at Lake Nockamixon, and the classic rock station was airing "Runnin' With the Devil," that I finally, after all these years, including way too many years listening at volumes way too high, pulled the actual words from David Lee Roth's venerable chops. It's not "nolouducoreo;" it's "no love you'd call real." Wow. A little dehydration and exhaustion can do wonders to calm the mind and lead one to greater truths.

Which brings me to Michael Nutter. I didn't really know much about him until recently. I've read about his positions in the papers. The smoking ban - I like that. Ethics - I like that. Kicking the skateboarders out of Love Park (sorry: JFK Plaza) - well, I'm all for healthy, youthful rebellion, but not when it comes to destroying public spaces, so I came to like that one, too.

But I didn't know how to distinguish him from the handful of other presumed candidates who have been serving our city for years, each fighting in a slightly different field of battle to help our city. So when his campaign contacted us to set up a "get to know the candidate" kind of informal home meeting to talk about issues, we said: "Sure, as long as we can talk about Henry and Philadelphia's other public schools." No problem.

For an hour and a half in our living room, Michael Nutter sat with parents - most with kids in Henry or other public schools, some with kids in private schools - to talk about Philly's public schools. He asked a lot of questions, and he listened. He shared his own experiences and philosophy. He has a child in a Philadelphia public school. He has seen how good our schools can be, and he has experienced some of the issues that still need work.

So where is Michael Nutter on our schools? He pointed out a very interesting matter of calendar. The School Reform Commission's charter runs until 2009. CEO Paul Vallas' new contract extension expires at the same time. So what happens when that perfect storm hits in 2009? Does the state return the district to local control? Does the then-Governor extend state control? Does the then-Mayor stand up and claim our schools for our citizens?

Michael Nutter wants the schools back, to undo the arrangement that took away representation of our 200,000 students from our citizens and handed it to the rest of the state. Maybe it happens in 2009, maybe before. Either way, I like that position best of all.

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