Calls begin anew for safe schools advocate

Two state lawmakers from Philadelphia plan to introduce a bill that would re-institute the safe schools advocate to monitor the handling of violent incidents in the Philadelphia School District.

The announcement comes a week after Auditor General Jack Wagner urged the legislature to provide funding for the position, which was abolished in 2009. Previously overseen by the state Department of Education, the new proposal would put the job under the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency to avoid conflicts of interest, according to state Rep. John Taylor.

“We think this is a much more independent approach,” said Taylor, a Republican who will introduce the legislation next month with Rep. Bill Keller, a Democrat. Taylor said he will ask for $1 million in funding, although he acknowledged it will be challenging in the current financial climate.

From 2001 to 2004, the office received an average of 400 complaints a year from parents, students and teachers, said Harvey Rice, the first safe schools advocate and current deputy Philadelphia city controller. Both Rice and Taylor said the position is important to keep the district honest.

“They’re dealing with the same set of statistics, but sometimes they’re reconfigured in a way that paints a different picture,” Taylor said.

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